At Soccer in the Streets, it’s about more than just the game. The fundamentals of the sport are important, but so are the building blocks of the player. Pairing the two to teach the essentials of soccer while also fostering the personal development of the individual, the nonprofit works with undeserved youth to foster a love of the game, all while teaching important life skills.
Started more than 25 years ago, Soccer in the Streets saw a need to bring kids off the streets and provide them with something constructive to do. Capitalizing on the U.S. World Cup, the organization started promoting soccer to communities that typically didn’t know much about the sport.
Soccer in the Streets works with youth of all ages, starting their programming for students in elementary school, in hopes of getting kids excited about soccer at a young age. Their Positive Choice Soccer program works with these players, helping them learn how to play, but also encouraging their character and good behavior. In this program, ten life skills are matched with ten soccer skills, and are used to reinforce how to make good choices. The program encourages them to resolve problems in a peaceful and positive way, which can be easily demonstrated with soccer—working in teams, playing hard but fair, and respecting the players and the referees.
“We train them in soccer, but also try to be a positive influence in their lives,” Soccer in the Streets Executive Director Phil Hill said.
As they get older, players can take part in the Life Works curriculum of the organization, competing in the sport while also learning about opportunities for employment and economic independence. Soccer in the Streets also offers one-day clinics and tournaments for participants to further practice their skills that they have learned for both on and off the field.
While working with Atlanta’s youth, Soccer in the Streets is also making history, facilitating the world’s first soccer field in a transit station. After convincing the city of the idea, and getting the Atlanta United MLS team on board, they funded the field with local partners, and have helped solve the biggest issues for the kids they serve—a lack of transportation or a way to get to their practices and games. Currently in its pilot phase, there are plans to replicate the field in nine more MARTA stations.
With the increased popularity of the sport, Soccer in the Streets has experienced communities receptive to their mission. To continue their work, and make the most of the growing interest, they host four fundraising soccer events every year, bucking the trend of the traditional stuffy, black tie sit-down events. Players and teams can sign up to play, and raise money to compete. Throughout the year, teams play in these events, which include country-affiliated and corporate-based teams. These tournaments are competitive, and raise the necessary funds for the Soccer in the Streets programming.
The fun, everybody-can-play event takes place in October. The Black Tie Soccer Game brings together players dressed in black tie and ball gowns! To learn more about how to participate in one of these events, or to volunteer with Soccer in the Streets, visit www.soccerstreets.org.