Prior to coming to the U.S. Soccer Foundation, I worked as a middle school English and History teacher in Los Angeles, CA, and Washington, DC. In both locations, the majority of my students lacked access to enrichment opportunities, like afterschool sports teams or music programs. Over the years, I watched these students struggle both academically and socially, especially when compared to their sport-playing peers. With no way to engage them beyond the classroom, I often felt as though we were failing to provide these students with a well-rounded education.
Extracurricular sports programs impact the development of youth beyond improving their ability on the playing field. These types of programs give kids the skills and confidence required to succeed academically and socially. Based on my experience, students that had the opportunity to engage in afterschool activities were receiving a more holistic education. I noticed that they were better able to work with their peers in group settings, they had better conflict resolution skills, and they were more confident in their abilities inside and outside of the classroom. It became clear to me how important it is for students to have well-rounded activities at their disposal when it came to classroom success.
In the world of teaching, it’s easy to focus on test scores or grades, and forget that “education” goes beyond book smarts. At the Foundation, I’ve found it refreshing and invigorating to be a part of a movement focused on educating the whole child. Our afterschool program is about so much more than soccer. It’s about character development, building leadership skills, and mentorship. Soccer for Success gives students the confidence and knowledge they need to move forward academically as well as socially. Being a part of Soccer for Success has brought the educator inside of me back to life; it’s made me realize that there are people out there doing the exact thing that brought me to teaching in the first place: educating the whole child – not just the student, and not just the athlete.