Youth Program Bets On Soccer To Expand Learning Opportunities For Kids, Regardless Of Income

Aug 11, 2017

The after-school hours present each student with the possibility to socialize and learn new skills through extracurricular activities. Experts indicate that these can be valuable learning opportunities, but what happens if the students can’t afford after-school involvement?

Focusing on expanding access to after-school programs, The Children’s Trust in Miami is leading a collaboration with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to bring the program Soccer for Success to Miami-Dade. The program focuses on providing organized soccer and nutritional education to low-income families.

Three South Florida locations are set to continue running the program in the upcoming school year: Liberty City, Little Havana, and North Miami. 

Tameka Danzi is the mother of the youngest child enrolled in Soccer for Success, David Bryant. She stands on the sideline handing out water bottles from a cooler, ready to cheer on the kids at Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City. 

Tameka Danzi waits on the sidelines ready to cheer for the kids and pass out water bottles to every child. Her son is the youngest child in the program
Credit Adrianne Gonzalez / WLRN News

“My son really loves soccer. He talks about it from the time we leave here to the time he goes to bed, wakes up in the morning to ask me, ‘Mommy, are you going to take me to my soccer practice?' ” said Danzi.

David was a quiet child, not speaking much until he began attending school. Tameka said the social interaction became significant in his development, and his involvement in Soccer for Success has allowed him to expand his confidence in a playful learning environment.

Donovan Lee-Sin, the neighborhood & community services officer for the Children’s Trust, envisions after-school activities available to every community, regardless of household income, gender or distance.

“We want placement in these communities where families can walk to the programs after school or have immediate access and not have transportation as a barrier to participate,” said Lee-Sin.

The program accepts students from kindergarten to eighth grade. The curriculum includes a weekly outline for trained coaches to advise students with tools in maintaining an active lifestyle and to instruct in nutritional education. Coaches also play a mentorship role for each student, helping them complete homework and encouraging students to recognize the value of hard work.

Coaches in the Soccer for Success are required to go through training in order to properly learn how to teach the children about nutrition and how to play the game
Credit Adrianne Gonzalez / WLRN News

Dr. Stacy Frazier is a clinical psychologist at Florida International University. She believes the window of time, a three-hour period between the school’s dismissal bell and a student’s re-encounter with their parents, is vital.

“We can’t just keep kids babysat. We have an opportunity that we can’t afford to not utilize more effectively than that, in particular for kids that are growing up in communities that are characterized by food insecurity, housing insecurity, community violence,” said Dr. Frazier

Dr. Frazier specializes in behavioral development in adolescents living in urban poverty. She has also partnered with after-school programs to help increase accessibility in low-income communities.

“As kids get older you want to provide opportunities for them to assume leadership skills. So I’m not sure it's the nature so much of the game or sport, the routine or activity itself as much as the life skills as you are building them,” said Dr. Frazier.

The Children’s Trust donates $100,000 of the $390,000 annual cost, which contributes to meals, uniforms, cleats and equipment for the children. Sponsorships are fundamental in order for Soccer for Success, and other programs like this one, to expand in Miami.

The Children’s Trust plans to expand the program throughout several neighborhoods in Miami-Dade:  Overtown, Miami Gardens, Sweetwater, Florida City, Goulds, Richmond Heights and South Miami.

For more information on the program, please visit: https://ussoccerfoundation.org/programs/soccer-for-success

To learn more about The Children’s Trust in Miami, please visit: https://www.thechildrenstrust.org/about

If you’re interested in bringing the program to your area, email  Donovan Lee-Sin at donovan@childrenstrust.org

Correction: In the original version of this story, we stated the Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City was the only location, when two other locations have also established the program. We regret the error.