Brent Botkin teaches physical education at Alpac Elementary in Pacific, Wash. From September through June, he works day after day with hundreds of young children, developing programs to improve not only their physical health and fitness, but also their social skills and sportsmanship.
Few programs, though, have ever proved as popular as Washington Youth Soccer's Soccer for Success. A soccer coach in his spare time, Botkin learned about Soccer for Success — a U.S. Soccer Foundation program that provides free soccer programming to low-income youth — earlier this year, and eagerly incorporated it into his plans for the fall of 2014.
An after-school program, Soccer for Success, uses the game of soccer to promote overall health and nutrition, combining soccer instruction and games with mentorship, family engagement and nutritional awareness. The newest school to adopt the program, Alpac has quickly become one of the largest and most successful Soccer for Success program sites in all of Washington Youth Soccer.
Botkin says attendance was over 80 percent throughout the fall, with not a single child leaving the program due to lack of interest.
"I love working with students in under-privileged circumstances and it’s a great honor for our coaches to work with these students, teaching them soccer and providing them with a healthy snack," Botkin says. "The knowledge students received in nutrition was extremely beneficial [and] several students who have had management/discipline problems at school really took a positive step in the right direction due to the role models, mentorships and great experiences these students received. As a teacher at our school I was able to talk to several students throughout the course of the school year about the positive experience of this program and how it’s been a great influence on their lives outside of school.
"This program stands for something great and we definitely look forward to the future of this program at our school.”
In addition to the new program at Alpac Elementary, Soccer for Success continued to serve hundreds of students at 11 elementary schools throughout the Seattle area in 2014, while expanding its roster of volunteer coaches and mentors. Measurements taken of students' body mass index (BMI) both before and after the Soccer for Success season showed strong results, while a record number of teachers, like Botkin, elected to participate this year, something Washington Youth Soccer Community & Outreach Program Manager Rachel Wilton says is crucial to the program's success.
"Not only do [teachers] already have a relationship with the kids, but they are at the school to follow up with them on any home issues, or practice issues that come up," she says. "Their dedication to the kids in our community is unwavering! We are so proud of the group we have."
To learn more about Soccer for Success, including how you can bring the program to your school, hover over the Programs tab at the top of this page, or click here.