Day 1 of the 7th annual Urban Soccer Symposium is officially in the books, and while it was a whirlwind of new information and excitement, it was a great way to start the week here in Washington, D.C.
The day kicked-off with a great speech from two-time Super Bowl champion Darrin Smith, who got the crowd excited by admitting that he was enthusiastic to spend some time discussing “real football” with our group of soccer enthusiasts. As a former professional athlete and as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Darrin is an advocate for providing youth with positive role models and coaches. After discussing the important role that coaches played in his own life, he offered a few reasons why coaches are so vital in helping to position kids for success. I think he said it best when he explained that coaches don’t just coach – they “create a legacy” among the youth that they mentor. In other words, a good coach will have an impact beyond the playing field; their true influence is seen years later in the successes of those that they’ve coached.
Following Darrin’s speech, we broke out into smaller group sessions to discuss topics ranging from creative coaching methods and youth leadership perception to online fundraising and special event planning. Each session was designed to help attendees grow their sport-for- youth development efforts and strengthen their organizations’ presence in their communities. I was fortunate enough to participate in a session led by Lawrence Cann, the CEO of Street Soccer USA and learn about their efforts to eliminate homelessness through soccer. Their annual event, the Street Soccer USA Cup, provided a great avenue for discussing the future of the “sport for social change” field.
After two breakout sessions, we were treated to a second featured speaker. NBA veteran, Etan Thomas spoke about his work with at-risk youth in cities across the country and discussed his own relationship with coaches and mentors.
With such a diverse group of speakers and attendees, it was exciting to discover that we all share one common goal. Despite coming from many different organizations and taking different approaches to tackle the issues present in our communities, we’re all linked by a common effort to use sport as a vehicle for social change and to empower those that we serve. I’m excited to continue learning from our attendees and speakers, as we share ideas and discuss best practices over the next few days!