Much More Than Just Fun and Games:

It’s Time to Double Down in Support of Sports-Based Youth Development Programs and the Children at Greatest Risk

When I reached George Weaver on the phone, he was at a storage shed in the South Los Angeles community served by his organization, Brotherhood Crusade. He was organizing equipment to distribute to kids at home so they could continue to participate in remote Soccer for Success programming with coach-mentors and use at-home practice guides.

“People want to do a lot of things during a crisis like this,” Weaver said, “the first thing we need to do is to be brutally honest.” Honest about the reality of life for children in poverty and the critical role after-school programming plays in their young lives.

According to a report by the Afterschool Alliance, the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. – when kids get out of school and when parents typically return home from work – is the most dangerous time for children in America. Those hours are the peak time for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex, the report noted. The COVID-19 crisis, when kids aren’t at school at all, can exacerbate this situation unless we take aggressive steps to avoid that.

“School and after-school programs are often the only place kids get to experience something that will help them transition out of their situation,” Weaver said. “Without them, kids are right in the middle of all the negatives (gangs, drugs, crime, social dysfunction) with nothing to counter it. That’s reality.”

That is why the COVID-19 crisis has prompted such a sense of urgency at the U.S. Soccer Foundation and among our national network of Soccer for Success program partners. Much more than just fun and games, Soccer for Success, and other evidence-based programs like it, provide participants with a connection to a trained coach-mentor. These caring adults not only teach the game but also help children develop life skills and core competencies while motivating them to stay in school and out of trouble.

Sadly, many of the local non-profits providing these essential services to young people at greatest risk are facing significant trouble themselves. Like small businesses nationwide, the shutdowns and social distancing enacted in response to COVID-19 has created significant financial strain.  That is why the U.S. Soccer Foundation has continued to provide critical resources to our community partners. At a time when program providers are obliged to invest even more heavily to find new ways to engage children, the U.S. Soccer Foundation is stepping up to provide both financial support as well as programmatic initiatives like Soccer for Success at Home.

But what can you do to help ensure that this lifeline remains available throughout the crisis and emerges even stronger when it passes?

Three things come immediately to mind:

  • Donate: Write a check. Support the U.S. Soccer Foundation so we can continue to provide opportunities that will have a measurable impact in the lives of children in poverty.  If you’re already a financial supporter, double down in these times of need. If you’ve never given, now is the time to step up. No matter the amount, your gift matters more now than ever.
  • Advocate: Congress has taken steps to ensure that nonprofits are eligible for support under the CARES Act. Call or write your elected officials and let them know that it is important to you that nonprofit organizations supporting children in vulnerable populations have access to support in any future relief measures. Your voice matters.
  • Join: Enlist in the national movement that champions sports-based youth development programming. This network existed before COVID-19 and it will need to do even more when the crisis passes. Add your name to the list of believers in the power of sport.

Our Soccer for Success partners in Kansas City, underscore how real that need for support is. This school year they were set to engage close to 1,000 children. Diego Barrios, Youth Development Coordinator at Mattie Rhodes Center, struggled with the decision to suspend after-school programming in response to COVID-19.

“These kids’ parents work a lot, no matter what’s going on. They’re still trying to make a living to provide for their family,” Barrios said. “There’s a lot of crime in their neighborhoods. If parents are out working, kids are going to get out of the house to find something to do. I really worry that they could do something that gets them into trouble.”

That takes us back to getting honest. Honest about why sports-based youth development programs matter.  Sports is the hook that can open these children up to a host of positive, life-changing outcomes. These programs matter and they need your help now more than ever.



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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

  • 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



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  • 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.

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    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.

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    World Soccer Shop

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