There are millions of kids in the United States without structured, safe learning environments between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. – a time frame that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention describes as the most dangerous hours for children in our country. More often than not in underserved communities across the country, children walk out of school doors and into communities that lack resources for effective community programs, safe places to play, and willing and able adult mentors.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation addresses this challenge by bringing our national sports-based youth development programs to these communities. The research on the benefits of youth afterschool and sports-based community programs is clear. Physical activity, and sports in particular, can positively affect self-esteem, goal setting, and leadership among youth. Studies have also shown that afterschool programs can raise classroom attendance and grades while reducing aggressive behavior.
Why soccer? Soccer is an easy and fun way to get youth active in sports. Soccer only requires a ball and space to get started, and is inclusive of all who are willing to play. Our goal is to create and sustain innovative programs in communities across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and we’re committed to creating solutions that work – and last.
That’s why we were thrilled to be a part of the Access to Sports Town Hall event. This forum, hosted by the Clinton Foundation in May, brought together leaders to discuss ways in which organizations across sectors in health, youth development, social services and education can work collaboratively to improve the health and wellbeing of children in Harris County, Texas through sports and physical activity. The panels and participants included representatives from national, regional, and local youth serving organizations, as well as state and local health departments, and parks and recreation departments. The robust discussions at the Town Hall emphasized the importance of collaboration in our efforts to increase access to sports-based youth development programs for children in our communities.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation has committed to expanding its reach through our evidence-based programs that leverage the popularity of soccer as a tool for social change. Working hand-in-hand with community partners and local municipalities, we provide youth with well-trained coach-mentors who teach participants healthy eating and behavioral habits in a structured athletic environment that will improve health outcomes for years to come. Since Soccer for Success’ inception, we have impacted over 70,000 children in underserved communities nationwide – and that number is growing every year.
While we are proud of our successes, there is still work to be done. Join us in our work and the work of the Clinton Foundation to use sport for social change. The youth of today depend on us – can we count on you?