The Star in a Kid’s Eyes is Often a Coach-Mentor

The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s programs show children that leadership and excellence can happen on and off the field. 

The pro sports world came to a standstill recently for the annual ESPY Awards. Instead of cleats and jerseys, the stars of America’s biggest sports leagues wore tuxedos and gowns to the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for this star-studded event.

But this year, something was different. Typically a moment of celebration, this year’s ESPYs arrived during a moment of strife in this country, as violence between police and communities had gripped our nation while weighing on us all.

As the ESPYs curtain rose and the show began, four NBA giants — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wayne — stood shoulder to shoulder on the stage. Over the next three minutes, they issued a clarion call to their colleagues and peers — it was a powerful call for action to address this national crisis.

We at the U.S. Soccer Foundation were moved to see such prominent athletes demonstrate leadership on this vital issue. In their example, young people clearly saw what we believe to be true: that the best aspects of sports extend well beyond the playing field or the final score. Whether a professional player or a teen athlete just finding his or her way, sports provides a platform for leadership and the opportunity to be a role model on and off the field.

This idea is central to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success afterschool program. We designed this program to provide children in underserved communities with guided mentorship from our coach-mentors, essential members of the U.S. Soccer Foundation family.

In his ESPY remarks, LeBron James called on athletes to “go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.” Our coach-mentors do just that. Many of them serve in the places where they grew up, giving them better insight into the reality of young people’s daily lives. Given their background, coach-mentors are uniquely prepared to help our young athletes build better interpersonal relationships with their peers and other adults. They are able to form connections in a way that helps these kids get to know themselves.

We see the impact our coach-mentors can have on young lives, and an independent study affirmed what we see every day. During the 2014-2015 school year, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) studied the impact of mentoring in our Soccer for Success programs, focusing on seven of our cities across the country. Kids who participate in Soccer for Success reported that they were doing better in school as a result of taking part in the program.

AIR’s study backs up what we hear from our coach-mentors: 92 percent of them report helping youth get along better with their peers in the classroom, while 82 percent tell us they’ve helped these young people get along better with their instructors. All of them said they helped youth to feel better about themselves.

You can’t ask for much more than that.

Though our coach-mentors might not be in the LA limelight or pulling in those seven-figure contracts and sneakers deals, they do have something in common with some of today’s star athletes: They serve as role models to help today’s children grow and thrive.

At the ESPYs, Chris Paul reminded the audience of the long history of athletes who have been leaders on major national issues: Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens and Billy Jean King just to name three. Just weeks ago, NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan joined their ranks when he contributed $1 million to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million more to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

At a time when we urgently need more leaders and role models in underserved communities, we welcome athletes who are willing to stand up and be counted. And we reaffirm our commitment to building a successful, tolerant and compassionate future — one youth athlete, one coach-mentor and one role model at a time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Join the U.S. Soccer Foundation in the movement to improve lives through soccer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation believe that participation in sports makes people better. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation have pledged more than $100 million to support youth sports teams and leagues in need.  Through our Sports Matter initiative we strive to increase awareness for underfunded youth athletics nationwide and provide much-needed support through equipment, uniform and monetary donations. For more information on Sports Matter, visit

  • Johnson & Johnson

    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

  • Kwik Goal

    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



    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.

  • 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 to learn more about the grant program and application process.

  • SCORE Sports

    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

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




  • Target


    Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 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

    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 or contact Mike Squire at / Phone: 312-371-5852.

  • World Soccer Shop

    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


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

Share on facebook
Share on twitter