"I don't spend a whole lot of time following soccer. But as I have traveled around the world to better understand global development and health, I've learned that soccer is truly universal. No matter where I go, that's what kids are playing. That's what people are talking about."
The majority of the players in our soccer program are at-risk students and/or Latin American students.
Many of them do not participate in after-school clubs, organizations or sports. In Texas, where football is king, several of these students are often forgotten, particularly because soccer is their sport of choice. Many of them are "frequent fliers" in our "in school suspension" program and generally students that struggle academically. Our program is attempting, with some success, to provide these students with a way to buy-in to the school's culture by becoming involved. By playing soccer, they are given the opportunity to become part of the school, and in becoming part of the school's culture, they invariably begin to achieve more success in the classroom.
The resources we are requesting are going to be used to enhance our current program and bring it to a new level. What we have found over that last few years is that there is a certain amount of buy-in, but because our program is mostly funded through donations and volunteer work, we are often working with the most basic of supplies. For instance, we currently have five beat-up soccer balls to train 51 students on one campus. The majority of our kids cannot afford shin-guards; perhaps the single most important item on the soccer pitch in regards to players' safety. As a result, we've ordered some in hopes to supplant the few old and broken pairs that we currently utilize. The training supplies are to supplement the volunteer coaches' needs in training the players. It is often difficult to properly train the players or more importantly, to convince them that this is a serious program when we are often reduced to the bare minimum in training.
Overall, the project enhances the classroom and school experience by providing our at-risk and Latin-American students with the opportunity to become part of something special.
Our soccer league, Liga HEB, is build particularly with these students in mind. Our hope is to provide these kids with leadership and teamwork training through soccer, and moreover, we want them to love the game as much as the volunteers do. As a result, they become more cognizant of their behavior and grades.
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