After finishing their field – one grantee uses diverse programming to keep children involved.
“One of our older participants just graduated high school this year,” began Jason Longshore, Communications Director of Soccer in the Streets.
Jason knows the young man has beaten the odds. He explains, “A close childhood friend of his is in jail because of gang activity and the quote that always sticks with me is, ‘If we had kept our soccer team together playing, he wouldn’t have been wasting his time with those guys.’”
Soccer in the Streets – an Atlanta-based non-profit group that develops soccer, educational and life-skills programs for children in disadvantaged urban communities across the nation – recently installed FieldTurf on a previously hard-surfaced field (originally built in 2003) to create a “Mini-Pitch” in the City of Sandy Springs, Ga., thanks to a grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Soccer in the Streets completes their new state of the art FieldTurf field in Atlanta, GA.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation has been providing Field Grants to support the development and rehabilitation of soccer fields in the U.S. for well over a decade now. But, what many may not realize is the importance of providing structured programming for children once the building process is complete.
Sandy Springs, an area that has seen a rise in gang activity over the years, is already benefiting from the safe place to play. According to Longshore, “This field has provided a positive outlet for kids who might otherwise spend their time on the streets and in trouble.”
Before the renovation players had to play on a hard court.
The field – located in Allen Park – had its grand opening and the area youth “love the new turf! While it didn’t stop them from playing before, it’s so much better to play on turf than a hard court,” Longshore stated.
Now that the field is attracting more members of the community, Soccer in the Streets has instituted an array of programs in the area. Longshore said, “We host regular Street-Cup tournaments at the location. We are in the process of setting up an organized league, due to kickoff later this summer.
“We have also created our first School of Life location at nearby Riverwood International Charter School. Many of the neighborhood kids end up going to Riverwood, and we created a program there to teach them career skills in the sport and provide tutoring to keep them eligible for interscholastic sports.”
In addition to School of Life and the Street-Cup tournaments, Soccer in the Streets holds weekly Positive-Choice Soccer sessions at the field, which “teaches soccer skills in conjunction with life skills such as control, respect, communication and preparation,” Longshore said.
Organizations like Soccer in the Streets have already made positive impacts in communities nationwide. It is evident that rather than the work ending once a field is complete, it is merely just beginning.