Soccer for Success participants engage in a scrimmage immediately after the news conference.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GREGORY REED
By ELISA CHEMAYNE AGOSTINHO
MIAMI – More than one thousand children in some of Miami-Dade’s most challenged neighborhoods will benefit from a new sports program recently announced by community stakeholders.
Soccer for Success, a unique national program developed by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, has come to South Florida thanks to the efforts of The Children’s Trust and local entities serving children and families, bringing the game to kids in Liberty City, North Miami and Little Havana while providing critical mentoring and an emphasis on healthy lifestyles.
Surrounded by excited program participants at Liberty City’s Charles Hadley Park, James R. Haj, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust, took to the podium to kick off the news conference heralding Soccer for Success Miami.
“This is an exciting program for several reasons,” said Haj. “Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the United States, but the game isn’t accessible to everyone. It’s also true that team sports teach kids self-control, focus and how to work together. They also keep children physically fit and build their confidence. So I’m thrilled that our community engagement team played such a pivotal role in building the coalition that brought Soccer for Success to Miami.”
Revolving around four key components of good health and positive youth development – physical activity, nutrition education, mentorship and family engagement – each Soccer for Success session generally meets three times a week for 75-90 minutes, and includes at least one hour of physical activity.
The program is facilitated by specially trained community-based coaches/mentors, who also involve parents and caregivers with activities such as Zumba classes, cooking classes, nutrition education, preventative health services and other wellness-related local resources.
“This is about more than just soccer,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, president and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “Soccer for Success encourages children to develop healthy, active lifestyles; it educates them about proper nutrition; and it connects them to trained coach-mentors who help them become productive citizens. We’ve just begun here in Miami, but we already have plans to expand the program to accommodate one thousand more kids in the county. The way Miami has come together with a broad collaborative to make this all happen in such a short amount of time is a model for the rest of the nation.”
In addition to The Children’s Trust and U.S. Soccer Foundation, funding partners for Soccer for Success Miami include the City of North Miami and the City of Miami.
Program partners include FLIPANY, Liberty City Optimist Club, City of North Miami Parks and Recreation, FAB Sports, 93rd Street Community Baptist Church, Greater Love Full Gospel Baptist Church and New Providence Missionary Baptist Church.
Keon Hardemon, City of Miami Commissioner for District 5, is a huge proponent of the program and was a critical force in securing the municipality’s financial support for the program.
“The U.S. Soccer Foundation and all of its partners said, ‘We believe in you, and to show you that we believe in you, we want to invest in you,’” said Hardemon. “This is an important day for us.”
Derrick Corker, director of the City of North Miami’s Parks and Recreation Department, also expressed gratitude and support.
“We are very proud to collaborate with The Children’s Trust and the U.S. Soccer Foundation,” he said. “The Soccer for Success program is a model that we feel is instrumental to the positive development of youth. The City of North Miami welcomes – and is very excited to be a part of – Soccer for Success.”
The program plans to expand to Sweetwater and Homestead. Registration is free, and all program participants receive a free soccer jersey, soccer ball and shin guards.
“It’s a great thing, a great day,” said Liberty City Optimist Club founder and CEO Luther Campbell. “I’d like to thank The Children’s Trust, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and all the program partners.”
Discussing what drives his commitment to children just like the ones scrimmaging after the news conference in Hadley Park, Foster-Simeon spoke passionately and decisively.
“Creating a safe and fun space where children can learn and engage and grow is so important,” he said almost wistfully. “Too often children like this get left behind.”
TO SIGN UP FOR SOCCER FOR SUCCESS
TO SIGN UP FOR SOCCER FOR SUCCESS
In order to sign up for the program, Liberty City residents can come to the Samuel K. Johnson Youth Center, 4920 NW 12 Avenue in Miami, to pick up an application or call 305-329-4747 and ask for Eureca Coulanges or Yolanda Bethune.
Little Havana residents should contact Elisabeth Denil at 813-270-5184 or email email@example.com.
City of North Miami residents should contact City of North Miami Parks and Recreation at 305-895-9840.
Representatives from local parks will also engage neighborhood and community groups as well as schools to recruit program participants.
Residents interested in bringing Soccer for Success to their neighborhoods should contact Donovan Lee-Sin, neighborhood and community services officer at The Children’s Trust, at 305-571-5700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They may also reach out to Lynne Kunins, CEO of FLIPANY, at 954-636-2388 or email email@example.com.