Blog
Soccer for Success Lays the Foundation in Chicago

Soccer for Success Lays the Foundation in Chicago

chicago knights photo

In June 2017, the U-15 Chicago Knights boys team won their first Illinois State Cup. But their story begins four years prior, at six different Soccer for Success sites around Chicago.

In 2013, nineteen boys joined their respective schools’ Soccer for Success teams. Learning the lessons of leadership and nutrition while honing their soccer skills, the boys began to flourish and create friendships.

Bryan Franco, who has participated in Soccer for Success for 10 years, believes that “Soccer for Success is organic…I like seeing my teammates get better.”

During the Soccer for Success season, these six teams played against each other.

“The boys would play each other on weekends with their Soccer for Success teams,” says Ale Jurado, Illinois Youth Soccer Association (IYSA) program coordinator. “I would always tell them to be respectful and show good sportsmanship to the other teams because you never know who you will be playing alongside tomorrow.”

THE KICKOFF

As the boys continued to develop their skills, many of them began to express their desire to play soccer at a higher level of competition.

“To keep players enrolled in Soccer for Success programming and playing at a higher level, we created Chicago Knights FC,” explains Ale.

Chicago Knights FC is a competitive soccer club comprised of current Soccer for Success participants and coach-mentors. The club provides players the opportunity to compete at a higher level, while keeping the inclusive culture of Soccer for Success.

“Any Soccer for Success participant that wants to play at the higher level can with the Knights,” says Ale. “There is no tryout process and the club maintains the environment that every player gets to play. It’s an important part of the club’s culture that sets it apart from other programs.”

At the start of her coach-mentor career, Diane observed that many kids seemed to feel welcome in the Soccer for Success space. “In a lot of the soccer programs that are offered, they focus more on kids that are at a more competitive level and isolate the other kids,” she explains. “Not having tryouts and not pinpointing the kids that are more advanced helps our kids feel more involved and as though they have a part in something.”

COACH-MENTORS

brandon chi knights

Everyone involved in the creation of the Chicago Knights had to be adaptable. To coach at the competitive club level, coach-mentors had to go through official coaching license courses to be permitted to coach youth club teams. Of the six coaches, four now have D licenses and two have E licenses.

Even though Brandon, who currently coaches a U-14 Chicago Knights team, joined Soccer for Success with an E license, he still wanted to gain higher accreditation to become a better coach for his players.

Having played soccer his whole life, he believed that earning higher licenses might allow him to expand his own knowledge, better explain the curriculum, and learn how to best relay it to his players.

“I want to see what clicks with these kids, see if they can make the jump from recreational soccer in their neighborhood to maybe competitive club travel, especially for kids in the city who might not get as much exposure as kids in the suburbs, or who have other means of getting recognized,” he says.

Diane, too, saw how earning her coaching license could have a positive impact. “You want to keep the kids motivated and you want them to learn more,” she explains. “If you want them to learn, you have to challenge yourself to learn more as a coach [and] then relay [what you learn] to the kids.”


diane chi knights

PLAYERS

For the players, joining the Chicago Knights meant that they elected to participate in both programs, and to therefore, play soccer four to five days per week, with both Soccer for Success and competitive club matches taking place on the weekends. Because not all Soccer for Success participants compete with the Chicago Knights, normal Soccer for Success programming continues to provide the curriculum to all participants; Soccer for Success participants who wish to also compete with the Chicago Knights practice and play games as an accompaniment to their Soccer for Success programming.

Ale has no qualms about the players’ dedication and their ability to balance both the Soccer for Success programming and the Chicago Knights schedule.

She says that because the players have already demonstrated their commitment to the Soccer for Success program, they are prepared to translate that sense of responsibility to a club environment. “For those players,” she says, “you already know that they are going to make that good transition of being committed.”

In fact, Bryan owes a lot of his team’s success to consistent training in both programs. "Our team wasn't really good at the beginning,” he says, “but now we're getting better and able to play against better competition to see what's out there and improve our game."

HOW SOCCER FOR SUCCESS LAYS THE FOUNDATION

While the Chicago Knights play at a higher level of competition, the club has adapted much of the environment created from Soccer for Success. And, for most, it is the reason why players prefer to stay on with the Chicago Knights instead of joining a different competitive club.

"The Chicago Knights provides access to competitive soccer, without the competitive culture,” says Ale, “and offers them access to higher level soccer without the fear that they won’t have the skill or talent necessary.”

Like Soccer for Success, the Knights have an environment that fosters growth and development, but also places emphasis on community.

“We really give that mentorship component because we stay pretty small,” explains Brandon.

Sixteen-year-old Angel Dominguez feels similarly about the positive impact of the community. “The support of the players, the coaches, the support of everyone around you really encourages you to play better and do better on the field.”

Since their inception, the Chicago Knights have won three league division championships and one Illinois State Cup title as a club. Illinois Youth Soccer has more than 20 active Soccer for Success sites across Chicago for the 2018 spring season.

The Chicago Knights hope to defend their league titles and win another championship this season.

Comments

There are no comments at this time.

Leave a Comment

Our Partners

  • adidas

    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 adidas.com.

  • All Sports Enterprises, Inc.

    All Sports Enterprises, Inc. is the U.S. Soccer Foundation's preferred artificial turf supplier and installer. Whether you are building a new, or renovating an existing facility, All Sports Enterprises, Inc. has the materials and professional installation crews to outfit your entire complex. With over 30 different manufacturers to choose from, All Sports Enterprises, Inc. will assist you in selecting the right products for the right application. Its intallation crews are experienced, certified, and will work with you and your staff to make sure your project is a complete success.


  • 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 www.sportsbyapt.com.

  • AstroTurf

    For athletes and soccer enthusiasts, AstroTurf® is redefining how synthetic soccer fields are built and perform. The brand offers advanced, state-of-the-art synthetic turf systems with proprietary engineered technologies. A growing number of clubs, high schools, colleges, professional sports teams and municipalities continue to select AstroTurf’s LigaTurf-branded products for their premium quality, technical superiority, and safety. To learn more, visit the company’s recently redesigned website, www.astroturf.com/soccer. - See more at: https://ussoccerfoundation.org/article/astroturf-partners-with-the-u.s.-soccer-foundation-as-a-national-partner-for-field-building-program#sthash.FL8E8bAM.dpuf

  • 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 chacompanies.com

  • Hunter

    Hunter Industries, the Foundation's National Partner for Irrigation Equipment, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of irrigation equipment for turf, landscape and soccer fields.  Hunter Industries' focus is on landscape irrigation with a significant part of its business centering on the proper care and maintenance of sports turf. For more information, please visit hunterindustries.com. Please contact Lynda Wightman, 406-273-3073, lynda.wightman@hunterindustries.com with any questions regarding the U.S. Soccer Foundation's grants program.

  • 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 www.jnj.com.

  • 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 Kwikgoal.com.

  • MLS WORKS

    MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer's community outreach initiative, is dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS WORKS is committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games by executing national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertaking various initiatives in underserved communities.

  • MTJ Sports

    MTJ Sports is honored to be a corporate partner with the U.S. Soccer Foundation and its Safe Places To Play program. We believe in working with our customers as a true business partnership. We cultivate & drive healthy relationships through our core business values and provide premier turnkey services for sports surfaces & equipment from design & manufacturing all the way through the installation process. For more information please visit our website at www.mtjsports.com or contact our president, Mats Jonmarker, directly via email at mats@mtjsports.com.

  • 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 https://ussoccerfoundation.org/grants/ to learn more about the grant program and application process.

  • 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 scoresports.com.

  • Soccer.com

    Soccer.com, 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. Soccer.com embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit soccer.com.

  • Sport Court

    Sport Court®, the Foundation's Supplier for Futsal Surfaces, has been the industry leader in modular athletic flooring for over 30 years. With more than 50,000 installations worldwide, and the largest and most experienced network of authorized dealers, Sport Court® delivers innovative, durable, high-performance solutions for a variety of sports and activities. For more information, please visit sportcourt.com. Please contact Lauren Gillian at lgillian@sportcourt.com for any questions regarding Sport Court's corporate partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

  • Target

    Target announced a national partnership with Safe Spaces to Play in 2017, along with a 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, 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.

    For more information on our services, please visit https://www.worldwidetgi.com or contact Mike Squire at msquire@worldwidetgi.com / Phone: 312-371-5852.

  • World Soccer Shop

    Launched in 2001, World Soccer Shop is an online soccer retailer based in Birmingham, Alabama. It carries one of the world’s widest selections of officially-licensed products from the sport’s top brands and teams. World Soccer Shop is passionate about soccer and endeavors to spread the beautiful game around the world, especially to those in areas of need. For more information, please visit www.worldsoccershop.com.

Share Your Support On Social

Tweet or post on Facebook and show the world that you believe in the power of soccer.

Share Now