Soccer for Success, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s after-school youth development program in the City of Buffalo, is alive and kicking thanks in large part to the efforts of two Martin Group clients – the Independent Health Foundation and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.
Now in its sixth year, Soccer for Success is offered free to participants by the Independent Health Foundation in collaboration with Algonquin Sports. Nearly 1,750 children in grades K-8 throughout the City of Buffalo will participate during the 2017-2018 year.
The program scored a major goal at a Sept. 20 press conference when officials from the Independent Health Foundation announced a game-changing grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation – $650,000 over three years.
More than 3,000 youngsters and more than 300 coach-mentors have participated in Soccer for Success since it was first launched here in May 2012. Originally hosted at 12 sites, the program has since expanded to 20 locations.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s funding will enable the Independent Health Foundation to expand the Soccer for Success program to 2,250 children during 2018-2019, and to 3,000 in 2019-2020, with an added focus of expanding sites further into the Western New York region, beginning with Niagara Falls.
Soccer for Success pairs soccer drills with nutrition education, both of which are taught by consistent, caring adults whose primary focus is to help children build confidence and recognize the value of hard work, teamwork and persistence in achieving personal goals. Participants exercise for 75-90 minutes a day, at least three times per week, for 24 weeks in the academic year.
The youth participants – many of whom are categorized as having high health risks – have significantly improved their aerobic capacity, are making healthier choices in deciding what to eat or drink, are trying harder in school, and have reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile through their participation.
Buffalo is one of five cities included in a recent year-long study that examined the health and fitness outcomes of children participating in Soccer for Success compared to children enrolled in non-athletic, non-nutrition-based afterschool programming in the same communities. Results released by the U.S. Soccer Foundation found the program has had a positive influence on the health of its participants.
According to the study, improvements in health and fitness for Soccer for Success children were statistically significantly greater than those of children in non-Soccer for Success programs. Overall, children enrolled in Soccer for Success decreased their BMI percentile and improved their aerobic capacity compared to non-program children.
A key component of the program is mentorship. Each site is staffed by caring coaches who serve as mentors to the children who participate. These nationally trained coach-mentors are invested in the successful development of the participants. They take the time to get to know each child, their family and what motivates them.
The coach-mentors stress the importance of doing well on-and-off the field by avoiding the negative influences of drugs, alcohol and violence. They also use program success as a model for successful problem-solving in other life situations.
In addition to the grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the program is funded by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Independent Health and the Independent Health Foundation.
The agency played a key role in helping to orchestrate the press conference announcing the grant.
The following video, produced by The Martin Group, provides additional information about the program.