These days, to compete typically describes the act of outdoing a competitor to achieve recognition, an award, or other gains. Brendan Grady, executive director of Soccer for Success at Chester Upland Youth Soccer, chooses to identify instead with the Latin root of the word, competere, which means “to strive together.”
One could say that this philosophy drove Brendan, JT Dorsey of the JT Dorsey Foundation, and Justin Spencer-Linzie of Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA to unite their Soccer for Success participants, families, and coach-mentors for Unity Day, a city-wide soccer day for local Soccer for Success programs. The event took place on the final day of Philadelphia’s Unity Cup, a World Cup-style tournament that brings the city’s diverse and immigrant communities together through soccer.
“We all kind of brainstormed and thought, ‘How cool would it be to bring our programs together through unity and Soccer for Success in correlation with the Unity Cup theme and mission of what’s been going on in the area?’” Justin explains. “It just made perfect sense with what we all are trying to accomplish through Soccer for Success for the various kids in our programs.”
For Brendan, JT, and Justin the collective goal was to bring their communities together to demonstrate the power of Soccer for Success. On the day of the event, participants from all three organizations arrived at Chester Upland Youth Soccer’s field to participate in games and activities, spend time with family, and learn from others.
“You’d be surprised how segmented our local communities can be,” according to Justin, “so expanding their knowledge and perspectives to different communities like Chester was something that they found pretty exciting.”
“The ultimate goal is for more kids to become interested in soccer,” says Brendan. “I think we have an opportunity as coach-mentors to use that interest in the game to then influence and work on improving…and translating the lessons from the game into life.”
Brendan, JT, and Justin hoped that, in addition to meeting and learning from fellow Soccer for Success community members, Unity Day would provide an opportunity for parents, participants, and coach-mentors to recognize that they are all part of a larger soccer movement.
“We wanted to try and bring the kids together so that they could see they’re part of something just larger than what happens at their locations, and even in their area,” says JT. “We talk a lot about how many kids are affected by the program, but they don’t ever get to see that necessarily.”
Amanda, a site director for the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, believes that Soccer for Success is “more than what we see; it’s nationwide…The fact that I’m able to be part of this in Camden and Burlington is like I am part of a change.”
For Justin, Unity Day is “powering the brand of Soccer for Success as an impactful community program that can make a difference in underserved communities. Through collaboration in programs like Soccer for Success,” he continues, “you see what happens when community leaders like JT and Brendan put their minds to it and bring folks together for an amazing opportunity like this.”
Since event day, Brendan, JT, and Justin have received a myriad of positive feedback, with some families eager to learn when the next joint game day will take place. Little do those families know, the trio already has plans in the works.
“Just looking ahead to the future, I think there’s a real opportunity, especially in the Philadelphia area…that this could be the start of a Soccer for Success series where we do this on a more regular basis,” Brendan explains. “It’s something that would really capture the interests of the players who want opportunities to compete more often and, at the same time, we could frame it in a way that we reinforce the values of what Soccer for Success is about.”
“This definitely laid the groundwork for what something of this magnitude and capacity could look like [in terms of] working in collaboration and using everyone’s resources for the greater good of Soccer for Success,” Justin adds. “It definitely brings a cohesiveness with the mindset that our communities are part of a bigger movement and that they’re not as isolated in the issues they face as they might think they are.”
If anything can be learned from this collaboration, it is that we are better together.
Soccer for Success participants, coach-mentors, and families, like those of Chester Upland Youth Soccer, the JT Dorsey Foundation, and Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA show us that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from – soccer is everyone’s game. Join us in the movement at itseveryonesgame.org.