For the past six years, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s coach-mentors have witnessed the transformative effect Soccer for Success has had on more than 70,000 children in underserved communities across the nation. As the national model for sports-based youth development, our programs, including Soccer for Success, are proven to help both boys and girls in underserved communities embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports. Soccer for Success’ coach-mentors use a group mentoring model that teaches kids the fundamentals of soccer, but also strives to help children build confidence and recognize the value of hard work, teamwork and persistence in achieving personal goals. By learning what it takes to play a team sport, kids are also being prepared to be productive citizens.
This week, a nationwide independent study, supported by a Department of Justice Multi-State Mentoring grant award, confirmed the life-changing impact Soccer for Success has on the lives of our kids. During the 2014-2015 academic year, American Institutes for Research (AIR) evaluated the youth development and sports-themed group mentorship program of Soccer for Success. From that evaluation, AIR concluded that the Soccer for Success model is “noteworthy in that it is a strategy to prepare, train, and support adults to understand how to best work with youth from underserved communities.” The study underscored that our coach-mentors aren’t there to merely coach, but that they are focused on mentoring. “It is remarkable that the coach-mentors come to care especially about their ability to make a difference in the lives of the children they serve,” AIR writes.
But that’s not all. The study goes on to note that Soccer for Success is an “effective model for group mentoring,” and one that “has the potential to benefit youth participants on a broader basis.”
As a result of the program, participants felt they:
These findings build on a 2014 Healthy Networks Design & Research (HNDR) evaluation, in which Soccer for Success participants showed significantly better health results than non-participants. Together, these two studies demonstrate that Soccer for Success improves the health and youth development outcomes of the kids it serves, and shows the positive impact of the group-mentoring model.
Based on these findings, AIR confirmed that Soccer for Success meets the key benchmarks outlined by MENTOR. As the leading champion for youth mentoring in the United States, MENTOR provides critical guidance and resources for mentoring programs like ours. We’re proud that our program meets its esteemed standards and we’re excited about the opportunity to advance the use of sports-themed group mentoring programs.
“Research suggests that group mentoring programs can produce an array of positive outcomes for young people, and have the potential to be effective across a wide range of participants. Mentoring programs like Soccer for Success illustrate that high-quality group-mentoring models can lead to improved health outcomes for young people, especially when centered around physical activity and recreation, as well as developmental outcomes,” MENTOR Director of Knowledge Management Mike Garringer said.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation knows that boys and girls in underserved communities face a daunting number of challenges, from limited access to healthy food, a lack of safe places to play, to inconsistent mentorship. But through proven, effective mentoring programs, like Soccer for Success, and the continued support of amazing partners, we know those challenges can be conquered.
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