Goal.com recently interviewed our President and CEO, Ed Foster-Simeon, about the Foundation and some of the challenges we’re tackling:
Goal.com: You recently ran a social media contest inviting people to submit photos of fields they wished to develop on Twitter and Instagram, with finalists voting via Facebook. How did the exposure for this contest compare with any similar efforts in the past that didn’t use social media channels so aggressively?
Ed Foster-Simeon: We ran a social media-based contest called “Field of Dreams,” in which we asked the general public to submit photos of a space that they wanted to turn into a soccer field for their community.
Finalists of the contest were determined by photo “likes” on Facebook and Instagram. Finalists were then invited to submit additional information about why they needed a field and the impact the field would have on their community. The winner of the contest received a planning grant from us, to help jumpstart the planning phase for a new field.
The "Field of Dreams" contest engaged close to three times the number of applicants we normally see in a standard grant cycle. In addition to seeing an increase in applicants, we also saw an increase in social media activity as more people began to pay attention to our page as well as engage in terms of liking, commenting or tweeting. Just as an example, we received over 1,000 likes to our Facebook from this contest alone. Just as importantly, the contest made many more people aware of the pressing need for more safe places to play and got those people talking about solutions.
Goal.com: Former U.S. national team goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann recently expressed his displeasure to one of our writers about the lack of physical education his son received at his new school in Seattle after moving back from England, saying: “My 12-year-old doesn't even have P.E., then the school wonders why kids act up at lunch time while they get a 20-minute break for the whole day... how can a 12-year-old not have any chance to go run around and not burn off energy during the day, and then they expect them to pay attention in class? It just doesn't make sense to me.”
How much of a problem has lack of active time for young kids in school been in regards to issues like childhood obesity, and how is the U.S. Soccer Foundation working to change that situation?
Ed Foster-Simeon: The youth of today are facing a major health crisis with the childhood obesity epidemic. One third of the nation’s children are overweight or obese. One in three. That comes with serious human and economic costs. Unless things change, experts indicate that this generation will be the first in which the children will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Moreover, the direct and indirect costs of inactivity cost the country more than $146 billion in 2008. To address this problem, we know that it is imperative for children to have opportunities to not only eat healthier but get physically active.
Soccer is a great sport for improving health because of its continuous nature and its low barrier of entry - you really only need a ball to play. We work primarily in urban, under-resourced communities and it is important for us to know what challenges children face in those communities in order to make a meaningful impact.
We know that the most dangerous time of the day for children is after-school.