As we prepare to start our fall 2020 Soccer for Success season, communities continue to suffer from a host of crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic fallout from the spread of the virus, and a public outcry against centuries of systemic racism.
Schools are starting the new school year virtually or through a hybrid approach with limited in-person days and class sizes. Parents are struggling to balance helping their kids with schoolwork and their own work. Many people are without jobs due to the economic crisis caused by the virus.
At the same time, we are becoming more and more aware of how systemic racial injustice exacerbates these daily struggles, amplifying the long-term damage of these problems in communities of color around the country.
At the U.S. Soccer Foundation, we’ve spent the summer listening to our partners so that we can best support their needs and, ultimately, the needs of our communities. What we have heard loud and clear is that it is critical that we continue to adapt and find innovative ways for our partners to run our Soccer for Success program.
That’s because the program provides much needed physical activity opportunities that keep kids active and moving. It incorporates important health and wellness lessons into each session. It provides a space to form social and emotional connections with caring adults and peers. It provides human connection, which is critical to our physical and mental health, at a time when there is so much suffering and hardship.
The bottom line is that Soccer for Success keeps kids healthy in body and mind. In our current reality, this is more important than ever.
So, what changes did we make to ensure that our partners can provide programming without disruption this fall?
We adapted our Soccer for Success curriculum so that partners can run the program across a variety of settings. In lieu of our traditional in-person trainings, we are providing an online training that is specifically designed to prepare coach-mentors to deliver the program across these new settings.
Our partners now have access to a curriculum consisting of:
- Thirty-six pre-recorded video sessions that can be sent directly to participants and their families to complete at a time that works best for them. The sessions are around 15-20 minutes in length, can be done at home with little space and equipment, and incorporate health and wellness tips and information.
- Thirty-six practice session plans that provide coach-mentors with guidance on how to run 45-minute virtual sessions (in real time) with their participants. The practice sessions include both soccer activities and health and wellness teaching points.
- Thirty-six practice session plans that provide coach-mentors with guidance on how to run 60-minute, in-person socially distanced sessions with participants. The practice sessions include both soccer activities and health and wellness teaching points.
- Thirty-six traditional in-person practice and game day sessions.
This approach gives our partners the flexibility to run Soccer for Success three days a week for a typical 12-week season in the way that works best for them and their community at any given time. Partners can move seamlessly between offerings on any given day or week.
It also allows partners to continue to serve as many children as possible. In some places, space constraints may limit the number of in-person socially distanced participants allowed at one time. Partners can alternate days that players can come in person, while still providing live virtual or pre-recorded programming to any other students enrolled in the program. No matter what stage a given community is in, children have a way to participate in each session.
This approach also anticipates the very real scenario that things will continue to change rapidly community by community, and that each new day could bring something different. Even if guidelines change overnight, partners can still run programming virtually or through distribution of pre-recorded sessions without missing a beat.
This helps children have some sense of consistency, keeps them active, and keeps them connected to each other in a positive and fun way.
We know that things will continue to change and our Foundation team will continue to adapt and innovate. To do this, we need the continued support of our partners. If you are able, please consider making a gift to the Foundation today so that we can bring this programming to more children nationwide. Every dollar makes a difference.
We’d also love to hear what’s working well in your communities as we all continue to learn and grow together. Because only by working together will we get through this challenging time.