With Soccer in the Streets, the Sky Is the Limit
Four seasons of soccer have helped transform Paris Scott. With no local opportunity to play the sport she loves, the Soccer in the Streets program at M. Agnes Jones Elementary School has provided a needed outlet for Paris and other youngsters in the Ashview Heights section of Atlanta.
Alberta Lyons was new to soccer and didn’t know where or how to get her daughter involved. When she discovered Soccer in the Streets, she knew it would be the perfect fit for Paris. The program has provided Paris, as well as the other youth at M.A. Jones, the opportunity to learn the game. An unintended benefit for Paris has been learning to work with others and to operate in a team environment, which are invaluable skills later in life.
Through the support of the Blank Family Foundation, Soccer in the Streets is able to provide access to the beautiful game to schools such as MA Jones at no cost. The Foundation has supported multiple schools that feed into our Westside community programs so when the school season is over, the players have another soccer outlet and safe place to play.
“As an M.A. Jones soccer mom, I have seen my daughter grow into an all-around athlete,” Alberta Lyons said. “Paris is given the chance to play the sport she wants to play in a community where soccer was just not accessible.”
Interest in soccer has taken root on the Westside of Atlanta over the past two years due to these free youth soccer programs and the continued opportunities outside of the school season in the Westside communities. Initially starting in six Atlanta Public School elementary schools in Fall 2016, Soccer in the Streets has scaled to three more APS schools during the 2017-2018 school year and will expand to one more in the Fall of 2018.
Ryan Harry, a physical education teacher at M.A. Jones, is also a coach with Soccer in the Streets. Over two seasons with the program, he has absorbed the game’s techniques and picked up important pointers under the tutelage of the skilled Soccer in the Streets staff and coaches.
“Soccer in the Streets has made the great game of soccer accessible to our students,” Harry said. “Ninety-nine percent of our players would have zero access to an organized soccer league if this program didn’t exist.”
Harry has had a unique perspective -- first as the physical education teacher, now as a soccer coach -- watching his players hone their soccer skills, gain an understanding of the Laws of the Game, and witness them maturing inability and sportsmanship. And one of his most impressive players through the past four years has been Paris Lyons, budding soccer star.
Soccer in the Streets has a unique approach to soccer: Helping players learn and perfect new soccer skills while they gain insight into what it takes to succeed as a single player in a team game. Success on the field -- whether via results or individual achievement and development -- can have untold benefits later in life.
Improvement and enthusiasm permeate the soccer program at M.A. Jones Elementary.
“At the beginning of the season, M.A. Jones was still learning basic drills, such as dribbling and passing,” Garrick Dawson, the school’s program manager, said. “As the year progressed I saw improvement during each session. Not only was the improvement seen in the players, but also in Coach Harry. Participation has always been consistently high at M.A. Jones and it is actually a privilege to be on their team.”
The collaboration between M.A. Jones and Soccer in the Streets is only one example of how the organization can build and enhance the lives of students and faculty through soccer -- building skills, teamwork, and self-esteem in healthy and enjoyable settings. Who knows? Paris could one day find herself playing the game at a high level. The sky is the limit.