For the past two years, Washington Youth Soccer has received a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund, through the U.S. Soccer Foundation, to operate the Soccer for Success program. The initiative uses soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles for children in under-resourced urban communities.
The program provides safe activities for children from communities which lack many after-school options and helps to teach the importance of Soccer for Success’ four core components: physical activity, nutrition, mentorship and family engagement.
The program works with 11 local elementary schools throughout Highline, Tukwila, Kent and Auburn School Districts for 12 weeks during the fall and spring, providing each school three 90 minute after-school sessions per week. The third Soccer for Success season concluded in early December with each school hosting a family engagement event, bringing the participants and their parents together to celebrate the program, share what was learned and just have fun.
After the first year, 89 percent of Soccer for Success participants categorized as overweight improved or maintained their Body Mass Index. Of those children classified as having high or some health risks, 86 percent improved or maintained their aerobic capacity. For many of these children, Soccer for Success is their first introduction to organized activities, showing them the benefits of team sports, specifically soccer. When asked if they liked soccer more after having participated in Soccer for Success, 98 percent of children responded “yes.”
“I can definitely see the impact that the soccer program has on these kids,” explained Jessica Cox, a Site Coordinator in the Auburn School District. “They get very excited about playing and seeing them from beginning to end, they have made huge improvements on and off the field. Soccer for Success has been a good motivator for kids to perform in the classroom, and to have good behavior in school and on the field.”
Cox cited one situation in particular where a student was pulled from the Soccer for Success program because of behavioral issues and bullying during school. Devastated that he could no longer participate in the after-school program, the student fixed his behavior and asked to return.
“I have seen the pure elation in the kids who are playing soccer,” exclaimed Cox. “For a lot of these kids, this is their first time getting to play organized sports, and you can definitely see the impact it is making. They are excited about exercising and being healthy. The kids are seeing the connection between what is expected at school and what is expected on the soccer field. I know that the program has made a big impact behaviorally for a lot of students. These kids aren’t just learning soccer, they’re learning life lessons.”
To learn more about Soccer for Success, or to get involved, click here.