A “mini-pitch” can make a big difference.
Just before the Los Angeles Football Club’s first home match (and win) against the Seattle Sounders at the new Banc of California stadium, the team got to celebrate with the next generation of professional soccer hopefuls.
In partnership with Adidas, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, the Club unveiled a new “mini-pitch” soccer play space at a South L.A. elementary school as part of a collective mission to empower youth and communities across Greater Los Angeles by expanding access to the game.
It marks the latest development in the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s nationwide Soccer For Success after-school program, which set a goal in 2017 to engage 1 million children and build 1,000 safe playing spaces by 2026. As part of the initiative, the organization launched the It’s Everyone’s Game national movement, which highlights the community benefits, mentorship opportunities, and positive health outcomes associated with the program.
In Los Angeles alone, 6,000 youth are participating in 2018, and more than 16,000 have been involved since the local program’s launch in 2011. New York and Chicago have also had an opportunity to take part.
The program, led by trained coach-mentors, is offered free to participants and teaches soccer skills and incorporates mentorship and health and wellness to create and fun and safe environments near where youth already live or go to school.
For youth to get the benefits of any sport, a space to play must be close to home, says Ed Foster-Simeon, president and chief executive of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
“If it’s more than half a mile away, it’s too far for children in underserved communities,” he says. “By creating a safe place for them to play and be active and have fun, they’re learning those life skills that are going to help them become productive healthy citizens.”
Soccer for Success participants have a ball at the mini-pitch opening. Image courtesy of U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Foster-Simeon says they’ve found that 80% of children in underserved communities aren’t participating in sports, largely because the “pay-to-play” model doesn’t work in those communities or there’s a lack of the infrastructure to support programming.
Through Soccer for Success, young athletes learn about healthy habits, and coaches are trained in supporting the social-emotional journey. The results have shown positive outcomes not just for the athletes, but for the families too. Independent case studies have revealed everything from improved physical activity and nutrition for parents to better grades for students and lower rates of conflict and violence.
For more information on the movement and ways to get involved, visit itseveryonesgame.org.