In May, I attended the 8th annual Urban Soccer Symposium in Washington, DC. I have been involved in soccer for many years and I thought that I knew almost everything about the game, but as one of my first soccer coaches told me a long time ago, “there is always something new to learn about the game.” The Symposium made me realized how little, in fact, I know.
The Symposium was comprised of four days of workshops, featured speakers, and special guests all united in a common goal: to improve the lives of youth through soccer. The first day of the 2014 Symposium featured a discussion with Darell Hammond, founder and CEO of KaBOOM. On Saturday, we heard from Matthew Spacie, Founder and Executive Chairman of Magic Bus, and on Sunday, to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, we were honored to hear from Women’s National Team legends Briana Scurry and Michelle Akers. All of these speakers had a unique message about the importance of play, sport, and mentorship. It is through their words and the conversations I had with those in attendance that I began to discover the real impact of the game.
Thanks to an ever-increasing number of volunteers and coaches who contribute time, ideas, talent, and resources, the game is growing in places that it was once rarely played. Through programs like Soccer for Success, the “urban soccer movement” is helping children succeed in unexpected ways. What was most rewarding to me was to hear personal stories from coaches and program administrators who are creating lasting change in their communities and are using the game to offer boys and girls safe environments in which they can thrive.
The Symposium continues to grow each year, adding new members and new voices to the movement. As the movement grows, so too will the game.