I’m bullish on soccer. I can’t help it. I’ve been a fan of the game since I was young and the only way to consume it was SMU home games (thanks for the memories, Schellas!) or a two-week old highlight show of the Bundesliga narrated by Toby Charles. You remember that show, right? Soccer Made in Germany – my father and I videotaped the show each week because my bed time interfered with the non-prime time broadcasting window. I became a lifelong fan of Borussia Dortmund, mostly because I liked their yellow uniforms.
Back on task – I grew up playing the game with friends in Dallas. There were some playing opportunities in my area of town, but as I grew older, I began driving 30+ minutes to practices and games because my neighborhood didn’t offer the opportunities I desired. Little did I know this was the case for many other kids, especially those living in Dallas’ central, urban areas in and around downtown. I would come to understand this as a barrier to access for many kids lacking the necessary transportation requirements to go to the game.
Today, I am lucky to work for the Foundation whose mission is to enhance, assist, and grow the sport of soccer in the United States, with a special emphasis on underserved communities. Since the 1970s soccer boom, the sport has thrived in the nation’s suburbs, but has lagged behind in many urban communities. As a result, I often think of our urban core as U.S. Soccer’s final frontier and have wrestled with the question of how to bring the game to the youth of urban communities.
Thankfully, the question has been answered as I have been energized by the work of several Foundation partners operating the Soccer for Success afterschool program. In Atlanta, the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta has struck a creative partnership with a traditional youth soccer club – Triumph Youth Soccer Association – in order to boldly ignite the game where no game has gone before. This partnership has enriched both organizations and benefitted the youth of urban Atlanta, all while growing the sport. I believe this sort of collaboration complements both organizations well – one, which is strong in soccer coaching and administration, and the other, which is strong in youth engagement/development and administration.
The Foundation is witnessing similar partnerships elsewhere to expand soccer opportunities using Soccer for Success as a hub while working with previously established soccer entities. Of the 27 community partners operating Soccer for Success, the following are working directly within the established soccer community to grow the game in the urban space: Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta and Triumph Youth Soccer Association (Atlanta, GA), Independent Health Foundation and Buffalo Soccer Club (Buffalo, NY), Chester Upland Collaborative and Widener University Men’s Soccer (Chester, PA), Illinois Youth Soccer Association, (Chicago, IL), Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club, Washington Youth Soccer, The Sanneh Foundation (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), United Soccer Club (Washington, D.C.), and Prince William Soccer (Manassas/Woodbridge, VA). These organizations found a way to serve their community’s youth, grow the game, and fulfill their various missions in unique and creative ways.
Consider this a call-to-arms, oh yee youth soccer club members! Join the movement downtown by attending this year’s NSCAA Convention and Urban Soccer Symposium to learn how you can bring the game to U.S. Soccer’s final frontier.