Building Community and Removing Barriers

Many people across the country may now know JT Dorsey as “Coach JT” given his involvement as a coach-mentor who has led some of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s pre-recorded Soccer for Success practice sessions during the fall 2020 season. But to the community members and program participants of the JT Dorsey Foundation, Coach JT is so much more.

ADDRESSING A CRITICAL NEED

Lack of transportation is a key reason why many children are unable to play soccer. In fact, according to Trust for Public Land, more than 100 million Americans don’t have a park within a 10-minute walk from home. For young participants of the JT Dorsey Foundation, transportation poses a similar problem. “When we started, we realized that transportation was an issue for kids,” explains JT. “Our Soccer for Success kids were playing in a league that wasn’t necessarily close to their houses and we found out that not a lot of them were able to make it out to games.”

Roughly four years ago, JT wrote in for a community grant that would provide funding to purchase a team van to reduce the transportation barrier for participants. Since then, that van has been a valuable resource to help transport kids to practices, games, events, and even appointments.

Outside of providing a supplemental mode of transportation, the team van has also provided a safe space for players. “It’s a fun van – it’s not just a white van,” says JT. “We’ve got the van tagged and labeled with JT Dorsey Foundation logos. When parents are releasing their kids from the house, it’s clearly marked who they’re getting in with or what organization is coming there. We thought that was important: if we were going to the house to pick somebody up, a parent could look out the window or come to the doorway and see who was there.”

MAINTAINING A SENSE OF COMMUNITY DURING COVID

Today’s current reality is much different than four years ago when JT first purchased the van so that kids could get out to practices and games. While the COVID-19 outbreak had put those outdoor and in-person activities to a halt, JT continued to think about how to best address the needs of his community – with the van, of course.

“During COVID, we were finding kids didn’t have soccer balls,” remembers JT. “We had soccer balls that were donated and we literally would drive up, jump out, and drop soccer balls off in community spaces.”

One memorable moment from the last few months was when JT drove a van full of equipment to a community park with his daughter. There, they noticed a few kids from the neighborhood and asked if they wanted some soccer balls. “My daughter and I were punting them out to people,” JT recalls with a smile.

Outside of gear drop-offs, the van has been used to keep community bonds strong in another way. “When we know we might be in and around those kids’ communities, we’ll go and drive it around,” explains JT. “I might be headed to the grocery store, so I’ll take the van out and ride it by where some of the kids live. There’s been a couple times where the kid is out walking their dog or out playing and they see the big logo come by and they go, ‘Oh, there’s the soccer van!’”

Now, with schools starting back up again and with the fall Soccer for Success season underway, the van still serves a vital purpose – this time, to deliver equipment for the season.

Since a lot of JT’s Soccer for Success participants are going to school virtually, that also means that their Soccer for Success sessions may be delivered virtually. And while the sessions for the fall season are designed so that children can participate with just a “sock”-er ball (a ball made from pairs of socks) and a small space indoors, JT has gone the extra mile to make sure participants have their Soccer for Success equipment.

All of the JT Dorsey Foundation Soccer for Success sites are running the program. Some are operating virtually via Zoom practices with coach-mentors. Others are utilizing the in-person socially distanced curriculum provided by the U.S. Soccer Foundation. By making sure that every child has a ball, JT not only ensures that every child can participate virtually, but that others can also come to in-person practices with their own equipment to maintain their safe spaces. “We still want them to be able to have their own soccer ball and their own things so that when they come, they can do it safely without exchanging soccer balls or anything,” says JT.

So, over the course of one Saturday in September, JT loaded up the van with Soccer for Success equipment and set scheduled times for parents and guardians to come pick up their children’s gear.

“We still want them to be able to have their own soccer ball so that when they participate, they don’t have to have those worries.”

With everything that kids and families must think about this fall, having a soccer ball for practice is one less thing on their list. And JT has made sure that there are still safe spaces where kids can release their stress and connect with their friends and coach-mentors. During this difficult time, he’s making a little bit better—one soccer ball and one Soccer for Success session at a time.

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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.

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The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

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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 SportsMatter.org.

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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.

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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 https://ussoccerfoundation.org/grants/ to learn more about the grant program and application process.

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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 scoresports.com.

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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World Soccer Shop

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