WASHINGTON – A new study finds that the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program has an overwhelmingly positive influence on the lives of its participants. According to an independent evaluation conducted by American Institutes for Research (AIR), 88 percent of Soccer for Success participants work better on a team, 81 percent of participants feel better about their future, and 76 percent of participants stay away from fighting.
Based on the findings, AIR determined that Soccer for Success meets MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership’s nationally-recognized benchmarks for mentoring programs, and represents a strong and effective model for sports-themed group mentoring programs. AIR notes that this study represents a “unique opportunity to build on the knowledge base on what effective group mentoring within a sports-themed program looks like.”
More than 71,000 boys and girls have participated in Soccer for Success, which is a national group mentoring program that teaches kids in underserved communities the fundamentals of soccer while striving to help them build confidence and recognize the value of hard work, teamwork and persistence in achieving personal goals.
The study, conducted during the 2014-2015 academic year and supported by a Department of Justice Multi-State Mentoring grant award, evaluated the youth development and sports-themed group mentorship program of Soccer for Success. It found that the program is “noteworthy in that it is a strategy to prepare, train, and support adults to understand how to best work with youth from underserved communities.”
“Soccer for Success uses soccer as a training ground for the game of life. Guided by trained coach-mentors, participants learn teamwork and develop leadership skills that will help them become productive citizens,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “This study underscores the transformative effect Soccer for Success has on participants. Our proven training program teaches coaches how to build kids’ soccer skills, and just as importantly, how to build character and life skills through play. We’re proud that our program meets MENTOR’s nationally-recognized standards for mentorship programs and thrilled that it is a strong and effective model of what a group mentoring program should look like.”
The study’s findings build on a 2014 Healthy Networks Design & Research (HNDR) evaluation, in which Soccer for Success participants showed significantly better health results than non-participants. Together, these two studies demonstrate that Soccer for Success improves the health and youth development outcomes of the kids it serves, and shows the positive impact of the group-mentoring model.
The study underscored that the program’s nearly 1,500 coach-mentors aren’t there to merely coach, but that they are focused on mentoring. “It is remarkable that the coach-mentors come to care especially about their ability to make a difference in the lives of the children they serve,” AIR writes.
As the unifying champion for youth mentoring in the United States, MENTOR sets guidelines for quality assessment, continuous improvement and recognition of mentorship programs nationwide.
“Research suggests that group mentoring programs can produce an array of positive outcomes for young people, and have the potential to be effective across a wide range of participants,” said MENTOR’s Director of Knowledge Management Mike Garringer. “Mentoring programs like Soccer for Success illustrate that high-quality group-mentoring models can lead to improved health outcomes for young people, especially when centered around physical activity and recreation, as well as developmental outcomes.”
The study’s release precedes the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s National Training event, which brings together more than 150 Soccer for Success trainers from across the country to prepare coach-mentors for the upcoming season of Soccer for Success. This year’s event takes place July 14 through July16 in Washington, D.C. and will feature speakers from the White House, and local and state leaders.
For more information on the study, please visit: ussoccerfoundation.org/impact/evaluation
For more information on Soccer for Success, please visit: ussoccerfoundation.org/programs/soccer-for-success
Jennie Westbrook Courts