Thanh Thanh is a lot like a lot of kids in the Syracuse North Side. She's got her friends, she studies, she started sixth grade this year.
But if you wanted to see her in her element over the last few years, you would have found her at Franklin Elementary School playing soccer. Thanh Thanh has been a stand-out player in the Soccer for Success program run by the YWCA of Syracuse and Onondaga County.
Thanh Thanh and her team members—there are about three dozen kids in the program, including 15 girls—look at their heroes on the U.S. Women's National Team, who recently won the World Cup for the fourth time. So how do you get to the top of global soccer?
"Practice," says Thanh Thanh.
"Sometimes I practice with partners. Sometimes in my yard, I practice by myself," she says. "I play a lot with the team three or four times a week. It helps a lot. We got better because of the practice the coach made us do. It wasn't hard, but it was good enough to make us a good soccer team.
"My team was, like, really good."
Thanh Thanh plays forward. She's young, but she is old enough and smart enough to know that there are benefits for playing on and off the field.
"On the team, we're all friends," Thanh Thanh says. "It's very important to get along with each other and know each other so we can help each other out."
The camaraderie on the pitch extends beyond the field. She and her teammates are friends at school.
Thanh Thanh says she likes to score goals for her team. "It makes me really happy," she exclaims, but she takes it in stride when another team gets a win.
"I feel like, sometimes, disappointed, but I know I'll have more chances," Thanh Thanh says. "I can improve myself."
She turned 11 in September. This fall, she left Franklin and moved up to Grant Middle School, but she plans to continue playing soccer. Thanh Thanh hopes one day to take her love of sport to Syracuse University, following in the steps of her two older sisters. They are in college studying to be medical professionals, but they play volleyball, track, and sometimes bowling.
"One of my sisters wants to be an ER doctor," she says. "My other sister wants to be a pharmacist, which is cool, but it's a lot of chemistry."
Thanh Thanh's favorite class is science, especially biology, and she hopes to be a doctor someday, but she's not sure what kind of doctor.
When she's not studying or playing soccer—Soccer for Success has had her on the pitch three times a week—she is active with Shaolin Martial Arts and a Lion Dancing Team for the Vietnamese Community of Syracuse.
Right now, she's focused on the school year. Thanh Thanh will take with her warm memories of Franklin, on the pitch or in the classroom. She encourages kids going to Franklin to take full advantage of the school’s opportunities, in the classroom or in sports.
"It's, like, a really cool school," she says. Thanh Thanh says she likes the way classes, like her favorite subject science, incorporated writing and math into the subject. But there was still time for sports. Along with soccer, she sees volleyball in her future.
"I'm just excited to play with new teams!"
Soccer for Success helps children build confidence and teaches them to persist in achieving personal goals—both on and off the pitch. Learn more about the program here.