Building a Foundation Through Atlanta Elementary Schools

Lauren Desmond - Director of Coaching and Education - engages Dunbar students during one of our clinics.

Lauren Desmond - Director of Coaching and Education - engages Dunbar students during one of our clinics.

Picture a Friday afternoon with about sixty 3rd-5th graders playing on four different fields. The Dunbar Bulldogs dance team running through cheers and routines while other students who are not on the soccer team hold up signs and encourage their classmates. Parents are cheering from the sidelines and some have even stepped up to be volunteers to help out the coaches. At the end of the game day, players are greeted with a meal a parent brought and get to relax with their teammates, coaches, and families to talk about the game. One year ago, this did not exist and being able to create this has been powerful.

At the beginning of the 2016-2017 School Year, Soccer in the Streets implemented the Positive Choice program in six elementary schools. With the support of the Atlanta United Foundation, Soccer in the Streets has had the opportunity to spread the love of the beautiful game to areas of the metro Atlanta area that have not had access to local youth soccer leagues. The response from the children, teachers, parents, and principals has been extraordinary.

Yes, we teach soccer, but our Positive Choice programs are more than that. We pair soccer lessons with real life lessons so players can apply what they are learning in soccer practice to real life. These lessons are founded on four values that govern our program philosophy. The four values are: respect, perseverance, enjoyment, and empowerment.  We focus on these four values to develop individuals as a whole through a dynamic, trusting relationship between coaches, who serve as mentors, and players.  

Soccer in the Streets has been working closely with Atlanta Public Schools to build a soccer foundation through the elementary school programs.  It is our goal to create a pipeline from the elementary to secondary schools. This spring will mark the first Middle School All-Star Soccer Games, girls and boys, on Friday, May 12th at Grady High School. This event will also serve as the Positive Choice Jamboree for the school year. All APS elementary school Positive Choice programs will travel to Grady to celebrate their first year of soccer and connect with the middle school soccer players.

The student-athletes who are selected will have exhibited respect, perseverance, and empowerment in the classroom as well as on the field. This will provide the elementary school players with an opportunity to speak with middle school players who have been in their place and give them something to aspire to be. Ultimately, Soccer in the Streets wants to help Atlanta Public Schools facilitate this growth over the course of the next few years in hopes that, eventually, that pipeline is established all the way to the high school level.