“I’ve never played soccer.”
These words ring true for many Soccer for Success participants and coach-mentors alike.
For Kara at the Boys & Girls Club of Queen Creek in Arizona, this is what has made her experience with Soccer for Success all the more meaningful.
Kara started at the Boys & Girls Club a little over seven years ago in the art department, but was soon promoted to the youth development director position, which oversees all the national programs at the Club, including Soccer for Success.
For the last seven years, Kara and her husband, Kenny, have been involved in all aspects of the sports programs. Kenny volunteers to coach as many sports as possible. “He’s just always helped out in different sports,” Kara remembers. “He enjoys it, probably just as much as I do.”
Roughly two years ago, the Boys & Girls Club of Queen Creek started implementing Soccer for Success into its after-school programming. For Kara and Kenny, who played softball and football growing up, the soccer program was a new step. “Unless I played it in P.E. growing up, I actually never played soccer,” Kara admits.
“When Kara first asked me to coach for the Club’s flag football league, I jumped at the opportunity,” says Kenny. “I love football and of course I had no problem helping her out…Then soccer came and it was just the next sport I knew I was going to coach even though I never had experience playing or coaching the sport.”
Despite a lack of experience with the sport, Kara and Kenny jumped right in. For Kara, the curriculum proved helpful as a learning tool for both her and her participants. “I like seeing step-by-step-by-step and I think this program is perfect because it literally is all written out in front of you,” she says. “And I love that.”
But Kara and Kenny are not the only members of the family enjoying the game. Their two children, Peyton and Hudson, also come to the Club to play soccer.
Peyton says that her favorite part is that her dad, also known as “Coach Dad,” is her coach. She always remembers his advice to “play your best and try hard.” Hudson will officially participate in Soccer for Success as a five-year-old this fall.
For Kenny, having a relationship with his kids through sports is important. “I grew up playing Pop Warner football and my dad coached me and I remember the impact it had on me,” he says. “I also enjoy seeing kids succeed at something they thought they couldn’t. She probably doesn’t remember, but it was the best feeling when my daughter scored her first goal.”
For Kara, the Soccer for Success program taught her that soccer is more than what meets the eye. “I think it’s a really fun program and I have learned a lot…just from running the program for the last year,” she says.
Kenny has also learned how important sports can be in a child’s life. “Sometimes a sport is the only normal or consistent thing in their lives,” he explains. “Just getting out there with the kids on scrimmage or game days and seeing what they’ve learned is the best part.”
For some members of the local Boys & Girls Club, like Dave, the Club’s branch manager, it is Kara and her family who have made the impact. “It’s really heartwarming to see a family out there playing together, coaching together, having fun together, encouraging kids,” Dave says.
But Kara and Kenny consider the whole Club as part of the family. “They treat all the kids like their kids,” Dave explains. “They don’t expect any more out of [their own kids] than they expect from the other children.”
Kenny says that “even kids who I’ve never coached…call me Coach Kenny when I walk into the Club and it’s great.”
This past program year was the Club’s biggest year ever for soccer and Dave owes much of that growth to Kara and her family. “[Kara’s] family puts enthusiasm into it, and the kids feed off of that,” he asserts. “Their energy is contagious.”
Soccer for Success coach-mentors and participants like Kara, Kenny, Peyton, and Hudson are gearing up for the upcoming fall season. Learn more about the components of the Foundation’s evidence-based soccer program here.