When I joined the U.S. Soccer Foundation staff, and more specifically the Programs team supporting Soccer for Success, I knew I walked into both a huge opportunity and a tremendous challenge. One of the main components of my job is training our Soccer for Success coaches. This season we will work with 1,500 coaches in 24 cities across the country. Through these coaches we hope to teach the game of soccer to approximately 18,000 youth. No small feat!
I have the privilege of managing both local and national coaches trainings, and in that role I recently found myself in Milwaukee. While the size and scope of Soccer for Success is impressive, it’s the powerful and more personal moments that truly motivate me. During the coaches training at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, one such moment occurred. We were discussing mentorship within the Soccer for Success program, when I asked the coaches to recount one moment where a mentor made a difference in their lives. In the room was a young coach, Max, and a middle aged Director of Athletics, Mr. Ronald. It was no secret that Mr. Ronald had been a positive force in the Max’s life growing up in urban Milwaukee. Yet still, I doubt anyone was prepared for Max’s answer. Max raised his hand and I called on him. The following is a paraphrase of his response:
“It’s no secret that Mr. Ronald has been a mentor to me. What I’ve never told anyone, including Mr. Ronald, was that early in my senior year of high school, after years of staying out of trouble, I had started to mess around with the wrong crowd and I did some things that I’m not proud of. Dropping out of high school was around the corner. One afternoon Mr. Ronald came by my house with an application for the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year Award. I was stunned. Each club nominates only one boy and one girl for the award, and he wanted to nominate me. That was my moment, and I’ve never told anyone including Mr. Ronald how close I was to dropping out of high school, and how much that day mattered. From that day on I strived to live to up to the man Mr. Ronald believed I was.”
Everyone in the room, stunned, looked at Mr. Ronald. Mr. Ronald nodded his head and with a broad smile said:
“I knew, Max. I knew.”
Five years later, Max is a young employee at the Boys & Girls Club making an impact on the next generation. Through Soccer for Success, he will have the opportunity to interact with the next Max. This fall, Soccer for Success will create the opportunity for thousands of kids to find their Mr. Ronald. Max and Mr. Ronald are also now my motivation. It’s why afterschool activities are so important and why I’m so proud to do what I do.
For more information about Soccer for Success, click here!