Achieving a Balance

Justin was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, but by the age of three, he was living in a different country. “I was working and didn’t have anyone to look after him,” says Justin’s mother, Leyla, who was the only one who could care for him at the time. For the next three years, Justin lived in Honduras with his grandmother and siblings.

When he was six, Justin returned to Raleigh, where he completed a second year of kindergarten in the hope of bolstering his English language skills. “When I was in kindergarten, my teacher gave me a book to learn the alphabet and numbers in English,” says Justin, “and I studied the whole book and that’s how I learned English.”

Regardless of where he lived, Justin has always loved soccer. “He has liked soccer since he was two years old,” his mother explains. “When he’s in the house, inside, outside, he has a ball. He loves it.” So, when the Soccer for Success program came to his local Boys & Girls Club site, Justin was eager to join.


Almost immediately, Justin formed a bond with his coach-mentor, Marcos. Marcos believes that a big reason they got along so well and so fast was because they are equally passionate about soccer. “Soccer gives you a sense of happiness,” Marcos explains. “It kind of gets you away from the problems, from anything that can be going on in your life that is bad. Not only that, but…you are able to express yourself just by playing soccer and showing off your skills and it’s just a game; it’s fun. If you are able to see it that way, then it can have a big impact in your life.”

While Justin and Marcos instantly connected through their shared love of the game, Marcos recognized another way to positively impact Justin’s life. “While getting to know him, I also knew that he was struggling in school,” Marcos recalls. “There was a way for us, as mentors and coaches, to encourage him and push him to be able to get better grades, to get his homework done, to participate in other programs that could not only build him up as a soccer player, but as a kid, as a person.”

Throughout his participation in the Soccer for Success program, Marcos noticed that Justin’s commitment to both his soccer and his academics improved. “You could right away notice that his attitude toward school was just the same as what he’d give you on the pitch,” Marcos recalls. “It was just amazing to see that result – the result of every day talking to him, not only about soccer, but about his education and the aspect of education being important.”


Marcos maintains that elements of the Soccer for Success program will prepare Justin to succeed in whatever path he takes. “Soccer for Success has been a tool for him to understand what the expectations are and what he’s going to learn in the coming years to be who he wants to be,” Marcos says.

Justin has taken his conversations with Marcos to heart and is eager to be in a position where he can give back and help others in the same way that others have helped him. “I want to study more and be a coach,” he says. “I want to be a math teacher. I’m in sixth grade now and I’m learning about shapes, like the angles of a triangle.”

Whatever he decides to do, Marcos is confident that Justin will succeed. “He looks for opportunities to improve and he follows the leader,” Marcos says. “And in a way, he becomes a leader.”

In addition to the development of soccer skills, Soccer for Success teaches participants critical life habits from trained coach-mentors. Follow this link to learn more about the components of the evidence-based program.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Join the U.S. Soccer Foundation in the movement to improve lives through soccer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  • adidas


    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

  • APT


    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

  • CHA


    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

  • The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation believe that participation in sports makes people better. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation have pledged more than $100 million to support youth sports teams and leagues in need.  Through our Sports Matter initiative we strive to increase awareness for underfunded youth athletics nationwide and provide much-needed support through equipment, uniform and monetary donations. For more information on Sports Matter, visit

  • Johnson & Johnson

    Johnson & Johnson

    Johnson & Johnson, the Foundation’s grant partner, is dedicated to supporting the next generation of female leaders by providing greater access to girls’ youth soccer programming in underserved communities nationwide. As the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson strives to create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere. For more information, please visit

  • Kwik Goal

    Kwik Goal

    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



    MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, is dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS WORKS is committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games by executing national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertaking various initiatives in underserved communities.

  • Musco


    As a proud corporate partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco is dedicated to helping the major charitable arm of American soccer create new opportunities through high-quality sports lighting. Their Total Light Control—TLC for LED™ technology is engineered as a system with lighting, structural, and electrical components designed to work together for streamlined installation and long-term reliability. TLC for LED delivers superior field lighting while eliminating glare and spill from impacting surrounding neighborhoods. And Musco’s long-term warranty covering parts and labor means U.S. Soccer Foundation partners don’t have to handle any maintenance on their system, or pay for it, for 25 years. Visit to learn more about the grant program and application process.

  • SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports, the preferred provider of shin guards to the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, is a family-owned and operated business specializing in sports equipment, uniforms and apparel. SCORE is an industry leader and has been involved in the sports community for over 40 years. SCORE outfits athletes with high-quality uniforms that SCORE develops, designs and manufactures in the U.S. SCORE takes pride in working with various non-profit groups and causes to give back to athletes who may need some extra support to play the game they love. SCORE is environmentally cautious with the materials it uses for its products and does its part in minimizing our environmental footprint. SCORE proudly offers a wide variety of products to provide customers with a one-stop shop for all your soccer needs. For more information, please visit

  •, 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. embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit

  • Target


    Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 million commitment to build 100 new soccer play spaces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation by 2020. This is the latest initiative in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s multi-dimensional approach to the sport of soccer, bringing the game to more kids and families across the country, and unlocking access and increasing involvement at all levels.

  • TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide, the Foundation’s National Partner for Visual Branding (Signage, Event Décor, Pageantry, Sponsorship Activation), Perimeter Field Board Systems, Creative Services and Event Operations is proud to support a variety of initiatives and programs throughout the United States. Headquartered in the U.S., TGI is an internationally recognized sports marketing company delivering high profile Visual Branding, Live Event Management, LED, and cutting edge Digital Sports Applications to enrich the experience at major events and deliver commercial impact for sponsors and partners. The company has a 20-year history in providing its various solutions for many top-tier domestic and international events, organizations, teams and companies, with proven success and turn-key solutions across 1000+ events, 160+ cities and 50+ countries globally.

    For more information on our services, please visit or contact Mike Squire at / Phone: 312-371-5852.

  • World Soccer Shop

    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


Tweet or post on Facebook and show the world
that you believe in the power of soccer.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter