Channeling Greatness Through Soccer for Success

By: Ed Foster-Simeon
President & CEO, U.S. Soccer Foundation

As the Olympics have come to a close and we consider all the accomplishments of the athletes we’ve witnessed over the last two weeks, the term “greatness” is often used to describe their performances. Nike’s new ad “Find Your Greatness” features an overweight, 12-year old Nathan Sorrell who comes into focus only as he slowly jogs towards the camera down a deserted dirt road at dusk. Nike’s message is simple; we can’t all be elite athletes like the ones we’ve watched in the Olympics but we can all be great and inspire greatness through simple acts like running. The ad is impactful, no doubt, but the content has generated some debate and criticism. Specifically, critics are concerned that the ad exploits Nathan’s condition and enables further stigmatism. Others believe that just getting up and running, as the ad suggests, won’t solve the childhood obesity epidemic in our country and Nike’s intentions are merely propagating this myth.

As President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, our mission is to improve the health and well-being of children in urban underserved areas using soccer as a vehicle for social change. I have taken note of this particular advertisement not because of its message but because it has put a spotlight on an issue that requires our immediate attention. The federal government’s recent release of its “obesity map” and current obesity statics, which outlines the rates of obesity and how rates in the states compare, further suggests that the problem is serious and isn’t going away anytime soon. Through the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, we aim to help find a solution to childhood obesity by educating kids about the benefits of good nutrition and exercise in a fun and safe environment.

Specifically, the Soccer for Success program is a free, after-school program that uses soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity and promotes healthy lifestyles for children in under-resourced urban communities. The Foundation partners with community-based organizations across the country to operate Soccer for Success sites – providing thousands of children from kindergarten to 8th grade with free after-school programming throughout the academic year. In 2011 we served 8,000 children in 8 cities nationwide. We anticipate serving over 15,000 children in 20 U.S. cities by the end of the 2012-2013 program year. Furthermore, we’re thrilled to say that we’re getting great results. Our 2011 evaluation data revealed:

  • Ninety-four percent (94%) of participants said they try harder in school as a result of this program
  • Eighty-nine (89%) of participants in the overweight and obese categories decreased their Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile.
  • Eighty-two percent (82%) of participants said they make healthier choices about food or drinks as a result of this program
  • Seventy-three percent (73%) of participants reported spending less time watching TV or playing video games as a result of this program
  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of participants said they like exercising more as a result of this program 

If you take anything away from watching the Olympic athletes or the discussion surrounding Nike’s recent ad, it’s that initiatives like Soccer for Success are inspiring greatness everyday by encouraging youth to be more active and eat healthy. I encourage you to join our effort to fight the childhood obesity epidemic. Together we can take home the gold and inspire social change one soccer field at a time.

Mr. Foster-Simeon is the president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. He is also a board member at the Campaign to End Obesity. He can be reached at and @Ed_FosterSimeon on Twitter.


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

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  • 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


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