Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why seemingly simple things don’t happen – particularly when it comes to providing opportunities for children.
A New York Times article on the impact of Hurricane Sandy that I clipped a couple of weeks ago, provides an unexpected window on a key barrier faced by low-income families.
The article points out that “while salaried employees worked if they could, often from home after Hurricane Sandy, many of the poorest New Yorkers faced the prospect of losing days, even a crucial week, of pay… Low-wage workers, more likely to be paid hourly and work at the whim of their employers, have fared worse in the (storm) recovery than those at the top of the income scale.”
Arguably, those same workers also fare worse --due in part to the types of jobs they often hold -- in their ability to help provide opportunities for their children to participate in beneficial organized youth sports programs.
Let me explain.
As a former President of a 3,000 player youth soccer club in a Northern Virginia suburb, I have seen first-hand the positive impact of having many middle-income salaried employees among the ranks of parents. Just as important as their ability to pay player registration fees, the flexibility they enjoy in their work and their work hours provides a ready army of volunteers. Many hold jobs in which they can inform their boss that they would like to leave early on Tuesday and Thursdays to coach their child’s team, and have bosses who are likely to okay the request, thinking that it’s good for their “work-life balance.” More importantly, they can leave work early to volunteer as a coach without losing pay.
Not so for many parents who hold low-income, hourly-wage jobs in which they only get paid for the hours they actually work. No work. No pay. As a result, many are simply unable to volunteer as coaches and helpers during critical after-school hours – no matter how much they would like to be there for their children.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation works with low-income communities to fill the gap. We provide community based organizations with financial support that enables them to engage coaches and mentors to organize and deliver programs. We are also working to identify and engage alternate sources for volunteers, from service learning students at urban colleges and universities to employees at civic minded companies who are looking for ways to give back to their communities.
We want all children, regardless of the economic status, to have access to after-school soccer programs that improve their health and social well-being. Understanding and addressing the realities faced by families in under-resourced communities is a key step to making quality programs available.