Channeling Greatness Through Soccer for Success
July 31, 2012
By: Ed Foster-Simeon
President & CEO, U.S. Soccer Foundation
As the Olympics have come to a close and we consider all the accomplishments of the athletes we've witnessed over the last two weeks, the term "greatness" is often used to describe their performances. Nike's new ad "Find Your Greatness" features an overweight, 12-year old Nathan Sorrell who comes into focus only as he slowly jogs towards the camera down a deserted dirt road at dusk. Nike's message is simple; we can't all be elite athletes like the ones we've watched in the Olympics but we can all be great and inspire greatness through simple acts like running. The ad is impactful, no doubt, but the content has generated some debate and criticism. Specifically, critics are concerned that the ad exploits Nathan's condition and enables further stigmatism. Others believe that just getting up and running, as the ad suggests, won't solve the childhood obesity epidemic in our country and Nike's intentions are merely propagating this myth.
As President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, our mission is to improve the health and well-being of children in urban underserved areas using soccer as a vehicle for social change. I have taken note of this particular advertisement not because of its message but because it has put a spotlight on an issue that requires our immediate attention. The federal government's recent release of its “obesity map” and current obesity statics, which outlines the rates of obesity and how rates in the states compare, further suggests that the problem is serious and isn't going away anytime soon. Through the Foundation's Soccer for Success program, we aim to help find a solution to childhood obesity by educating kids about the benefits of good nutrition and exercise in a fun and safe environment.
Specifically, the Soccer for Success program is a free, after-school program that uses soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity and promotes healthy lifestyles for children in under-resourced urban communities. The Foundation partners with community-based organizations across the country to operate Soccer for Success sites – providing thousands of children from kindergarten to 8th grade with free after-school programming throughout the academic year. In 2011 we served 8,000 children in 8 cities nationwide. We anticipate serving over 15,000 children in 20 U.S. cities by the end of the 2012-2013 program year. Furthermore, we're thrilled to say that we're getting great results. Our 2011 evaluation data revealed:
- Ninety-four percent (94%) of participants said they try harder in school as a result of this program
- Eighty-nine (89%) of participants in the overweight and obese categories decreased their Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile.
- Eighty-two percent (82%) of participants said they make healthier choices about food or drinks as a result of this program
- Seventy-three percent (73%) of participants reported spending less time watching TV or playing video games as a result of this program
- Sixty-eight percent (68%) of participants said they like exercising more as a result of this program
If you take anything away from watching the Olympic athletes or the discussion surrounding Nike's recent ad, it's that initiatives like Soccer for Success are inspiring greatness everyday by encouraging youth to be more active and eat healthy. I encourage you to join our effort to fight the childhood obesity epidemic. Together we can take home the gold and inspire social change one soccer field at a time.
Mr. Foster-Simeon is the president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. He is also a board member at the Campaign to End Obesity. He can be reached at email@example.com and @Ed_FosterSimeon on Twitter.
adidas, the Foundation's Safe Places to Play - Mini-Pitch Partner, supports providing children in underserved communities with safe play spaces nationwide. adidas strives to be the globally leading and most popular sporting goods brand. Dedicated to innovation, adidas embraces creativity and seeks to be socially responsible in all facets of its brand. For more information, please visit adidas.com.
APT (Advanced Polymer Technology), the Foundation’s Partner for Acrylic Coating Products, is a global leader in high performance sports surfaces. APT provides people around the world with safe, reliable, performance enhancing surfaces. APT’s Laykold Masters acrylic surfacing system will be the official surface of an estimated 500 mini-pitches. For more information on APT, please visit www.sportsbyapt.com.
CHA Sports, the Foundation's Supplier for Soccer Facility Design and Planning Services, provides community partners with expertise in soccer facility design. CHA Sport's full service approach allows the company to build world-class projects without breaking budgets. For more information, please visit chacompanies.com.
Hellas, the Foundation's National Partner of the Safe Places to Play program, is one of the largest sports construction contractors in the United States. While specializing in the general construction of sports facilities and synthetic surfaces, Hellas also champions innovative artificial turf manufacturing, base construction, field, track and tennis planning, installation and maintenance. To learn more about Hellas Construction, Inc. and their quality artificial surfaces for field sports, visit www.hellasconstruction.com.
Hunter Industries, the Foundation's National Partner for Irrigation Equipment, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of irrigation equipment for turf, landscape and soccer fields. Hunter Industries' focus is on landscape irrigation with a significant part of its business centering on the proper care and maintenance of sports turf. For more information, please visit hunterindustries.com. Please contact Lynda Wightman, 406-273-3073, firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding the U.S. Soccer Foundation's grants program.
Kwik Goal, the Foundation’s Official Supplier for goals, seating, boundary equipment, training equipment and coaching accessories, will be supporting a variety of Foundation programs and initiatives including: Soccer for Success, National Training and the Safe Places to Play program. Over thirty years ago, Kwik Goal was founded on the revolutionary concept of providing transportable goals for coaches at all age levels. Since that time, Kwik Goal has continued to focus on helping coaches and soccer programs create safe and dynamic learning environments by supplying high quality, safety tested soccer goals, field equipment and training equipment to the domestic and international market. For more information, please visit Kwikgoal.com.
Musco Lighting, the Foundation's National Partner for Sports Lighting, has specialized in the design and manufacture of athletic field lighting for over 35 years. Musco’s newest innovation, Light-Structure GreenTM, offers significant advantages for your budget and the environment — operating costs are cut in half, spill light is reduced by 50%, and 100% of your maintenance costs are covered for 25 years. To request your free copy of Sports Lighting: Answers to 7 Common Questions, please visit www.musco.com. Please contact Mike Shindler at email@example.com with any questions regarding the U.S. Soccer Foundation's grants program.
NIKE, Inc., the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s National Partner for Athletic Apparel, supports the Foundation and its programs by providing Nike apparel to kids in underserved communities. Nike believes in the power of sport to unlock human potential and is committed to providing access to sport and physical activity for kids to help set them up for success for life. For more information, please visit http://about.nike.com/pages/community-impact.
Soccer.com, the Foundation's National Partner for Soccer Equipment and Uniforms, was founded in 1984 to provide high quality soccer gear at reasonable prices through its nationally circulated catalog. Soccer.com embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit soccer.com.
Sport Court®, the Foundation's Supplier for Futsal Surfaces, has been the industry leader in modular athletic flooring for over 30 years. With more than 50,000 installations worldwide, and the largest and most experienced network of authorized dealers, Sport Court® delivers innovative, durable, high-performance solutions for a variety of sports and activities. For more information, please visit sportcourt.com. Please contact Joel McCausland at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions regarding the U.S. Soccer Foundation's grants program.
World Soccer Shop
Launched in 2001, World Soccer Shop is an online soccer retailer based in Birmingham, Alabama. It carries one of the world’s widest selections of officially-licensed products from the sport’s top brands and teams. World Soccer Shop is passionate about soccer and endeavors to spread the beautiful game around the world, especially to those in areas of need. For more information, please visit www.worldsoccershop.com.