Research shows that having a mentor in a young person’s life can be instrumental to all aspects of his or her development. Whether it is through direct mentoring in real life or programs like the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, having a mentor creates positive and meaningful connections that impact children, their families, and their communities. Soccer for Success is an evidence-based group mentoring program designed to combat childhood obesity and foster character development among children from underserved communities. Guided by trained coach-mentors, participants learn teamwork and develop leadership skills.
After the 2016 Fall season, one coach-mentor from Boys & Girls Club of Pine Hills, a Soccer for Success site, spoke with a program partner, Orlando City SC Foundation, about his experience and the importance of youth having mentors in their lives.
Orlando City SC Foundation (Foundation): In your opinion, what makes community-based coaching unique compared to other traditional coaching programs?
Coach-Mentor Trevor (CM): I have coached at a variety of levels across various age groups in soccer and this community-based team had some of the most excited athletes I have come across in the game. This program creates unique opportunities to engage with players and their families, such as being able to care for a vegetable garden with one of our players. This allowed me to draw parallels to the importance of hydration and nutrition for my team and myself just like for the plants in our gardens.
Foundation: Do you have a specific memory from coaching Soccer for Success this season that you will never forget?
CM: Each season produces so many memorable moments, but there is one that will probably stick with me forever. One week during our season, our practice fell on a school holiday when the Boys & Girls Club was still open. My team asked if I would still come and hold practice even though school was out. I happily agreed and came at the normally scheduled time to find out from several of our parents that their children had come to the Boys and Girls Club that day mainly to participate in soccer, even though they could have stayed home for the school holiday. I will never forget the feeling I had at that very moment, realizing the impact Soccer for Success had on my team.
Foundation: What do you think the greatest accomplishment was while coaching Soccer for Success?
CM: The greatest sense of accomplishment I had this season came when I started seeing positive changes in my group. Throughout the season, I would say to my team, “Making good choices leads to better results.” They started understanding that I wasn’t just referring to their dribbling, passing or shooting during the game, but also the decisions they make at meal time and every day when they are confronted with hard choices in life.
Foundation: Do you believe yours and the Soccer for Success goals were met?
CM: I was not sure what to expect when I arrived on day one. I had envisioned that most of my team would have had some knowledge of the sport or had played before. We were very fortunate to have a 20 for 20 Mini-Pitch from the Orlando City Foundation and the U.S. Soccer Foundation built at our Boys & Girls Club and were able to use it for our programming. With such outstanding amenities, there was no shortage of interested participants. However, many had no previous experience with soccer or even organized sports.
My goals quickly shifted from just teaching a foundation of soccer skills and basic understanding of healthy nutrition to also using an organized sports team environment to build and reinforce positive behaviors and characteristics.
Foundation: What advice do you have for other coach-mentors in Soccer for Success and other programs?
CM: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes during practice, especially in front of your team, and when you do, use them! I found that the most meaningful lessons my team learned arose from unplanned setbacks. These types of opportunities provide a chance to show the participants how you learn from your mistakes. This gives them the confidence to admit their own mistakes when they do happen and provides a real-life example of how to turn a mishap into a positive and grow from it.
Research from MENTOR shows the positive impact from having a mentor in a young person’s life, yet 1 in 3 young people are growing up without a mentor today. That translates to 9 million youth at-risk for falling off track growing up without an answer to the question: “In real life, who can I turn to?” The U.S. Soccer Foundation and MENTOR believe that every youth should have a #MentorIRL.
The impact is unmistakable. Become a mentor and be the answer for a child in real life!
The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s programs are the national model for sports-based youth development in underserved communities. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has established programs proven to help children embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports. Its cost-effective, high-impact initiatives offer safe environments where kids and communities thrive. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Soccer Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) organization. Follow them on Twitter at @ussoccerfndn and Facebook at facebook.com/ussoccerfoundation.