Contributing one’s own talents to a cause may be one of the best ways to make an impact on the grassroots level. This is true for Jasmine, a Soccer for Success coach-mentor in Niagara Falls who has been using her love of the game and passion for supporting youth in her community as a priority for the last two years.
Jasmine says she first started playing soccer in high school as a means of staying healthy.
“It was right before prom,” she jokes.
As it turned out, she loved to play and be around her teammates. Years later, the same sentiments hold true – she still loves being around children, and she’s found a way to incorporate that into giving back.
Now a Soccer for Success coach-mentor and mother of two, Jasmine says coaching comes naturally.
“This is a way for me to give back to my community because I absolutely love working with children,” she exclaims. “It’s who I am. I love doing this.”
Jasmine first heard of Soccer for Success from an employee at the community center her children attend. She recognized the program name from neighboring sites and was eager to have the program in her area.
“She was immediately so full of energy and just so excited the program was coming to Niagara Falls,” says Kelsi, the program manager at Independent Health Foundation.
As the program grew at Jasmine’s site, nothing stopped her from making sure all the children had everything they needed to play.
“She made [the program] her own and made sure she was getting everything she could to make that program what it is now,” says Kelsi. “So, she even used some of her own money to do things and she’s always looking to make sure those kids have everything that they need. And if she can’t provide those things, she makes sure she gets [kids] into a place where they can find those things.”
There was even one instance where Jasmine brought shoes and clothes to a participant because she didn’t have any to wear to practice.
In order to make the program the best that it can be, the staff are always thinking ahead. “We’re always looking for ways to improve something. We’re constantly changing ways to make things better,” says Jasmine.
In recognition of her commitment and hard work, Jasmine was selected for the Project Play Western New York’s Coaches Honor Roll. In November 2019, Project Play recognized more than 100 coaches, including Jasmine, at a ceremony and gave each coach a gift to thank them for the work they do in their communities.
"I was very shocked that I got nominated. I was actually nominating someone else," laughs Jasmine. "I was very happy because a lot of the times I'm always growing and giving so much that I don't take the time to step off and learn that I'm doing something. For them to recognize me I was very, very happy."
While Jasmine is appreciative of the recognition, she stresses that the acknowledgement is a true testament to the work every coach-mentor carries out through Soccer for Success.
“You’re not going to know how much you can impact a child,” says Jasmine who recalls a moment this rang true. “I had a little girl in the program, and her mother wasn’t able to let her come every day. She participated, and she loved it. And toward the end of the program she became upset, and I asked her what was going on. [It turns out] she loved the program so much, she didn’t want to leave. She was crying so hard I felt so bad, but I was so touched that it meant so much.”
As the program reaches new parts of her community and more kids join, all Jasmine hopes is that Soccer for Success continues to grow so that every child can have an opportunity to play.
“I hope that, in the next year, the program can be in the school district in Niagara Falls and that we can have more sites,” says Jasmine.
As for her own role, she has no plans to leave.
“I want to stay with the program. I love it,” she repeats about her job. “This is my God-given gift and I enjoy working with children.”
Soccer for Success coach-mentors teach kids the fundamentals of soccer, critical life skills, and how to lead a healthy lifestyle. They also take initiative to help children in all aspects of their lives. Learn more about the benefits of the program here.