Unfortunately, playing sports, no matter the level, can be expensive. From the cost of cleats and guards, to enrollment fees and transportation, it can really add up. According to ESPN, in the U.S., families spend $5 billion annually on sports organizations for their kids. With the U.S. Youth Soccer Foundation now being the largest youth-sports organization in the world, it is no surprise that soccer takes up a large portion of that money.
Take into account league fees, equipment costs, money for travel and tournament fees, and families spend several thousand dollars per child each year. Thankfully, there are programs available that have made soccer more accessible to underserved neighborhoods that may not have as many opportunities.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation is working to bridge this gap through soccer programs that educate children in low income communities. The programs also help teach kids to embrace a healthy lifestyle and positive image of themselves. With the mission of helping kids reach their full potential on and off the field, the U.S. Soccer Federation offers three unique initiatives aimed at creating sustainable changes in the communities they serve.
Through the Safe Places to Play program, grants are awarded to communities to help transform abandoned or vacant lots into soccer fields. The grants cover the costs for construction, irrigation and everything in between. If space is limited in a more urban environment, then mini fields can be created to equally transform the space.
Soccer for Success is the U.S. Soccer Foundation's free, after-school program that teaches kids about eating right and staying healthy. The program has seen high success rates since its inception, with 89 percent of active children reporting that it has made them more motivated in the classroom and on the field. Through this program, children are typically provided one uniform, one ball and 75 to 90 minutes of play time daily, three times a week, 24 weeks out of the year.
Finally, Passback is another U.S. Soccer Foundation program that serves as an equipment redistribution service. The program recycles gently-loved gear to enrich the lives of children who otherwise would not be able to afford the items. By doing this, the program allows underserved children, who may not otherwise have the resources to play, an opportunity to learn the beautiful game of soccer.
There are a number of other organizations outside of the U.S. Soccer Foundation working to help underserved communities. Formerly known as Soccer Start, Soccer Across America is a program founded by U.S. Youth Soccer that aims to introduce lower-income children to the game of soccer through training and guidance. Soccer Across America also helps support new soccer programs with hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding and equipment to help kick start their activities. The programs are run locally by existing soccer leagues and clubs, neighborhood parks and recreation departments and the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA.
Aside from just teaching kids how to play the game, these programs aim to build the self-esteem and confidence of children who normally are not given opportunities to play. Interested in getting involved? Both the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Soccer Across America have opportunities available.
Image via U.S. Soccer Foundation Instagram.