A soccer ball is far more than material stitched together; it’s more than a toy or piece of equipment. A soccer ball is a tool which has the power to create change, form bonds, and it speaks a language all on its own. It is because of this that we have created the Sphere of Change Soccer Ball. This ball simultaneously functions as a donation for the children and teens we serve, but it also gives credit to the many amazing sponsors who have helped us along the way. Each year, various organizations, local businesses, and individual sponsors make a donation to our UKSD KizPlay4FreeProject.
With this donation, they are helping to ensure that we can provide free of charge soccer, mentorship, school supplies, and social issue education to youth both here in our local community and overseas. Each Sphere of Change donor gets their logo printed on that year’s soccer balls, and we then use these balls in various capacities. During our 2016-2017 soccer programming, we were able to not only use these balls in our programs, but we were also able to donate them to numerous towns across Cape Cod, to villages in Africa, to refugee camps in Jordan, and to developing youth programs in Dominica, an island in the West Indies. Something we have noticed throughout our work is how much we can take an item such as this for granted in many areas of the United States. Some locations are fortunate to have surplus equipment, and balls are both accessible and disposable.
During our travel to impoverished and struggling communities, we have seen, first hand, how a soccer ball can be one’s most prized possession. We have also seen young children who create one of their own with whatever supplies they can find because the world has never granted them the opportunity to obtain a real one of their own. The luster of handing a ball to a child or even a coach never gets old. That exchange is often met with unconcealable smiles, deepest expressions of gratitude, and shared acknowledgement of a connection unlike any other. In addition to the joy which comes from a donation such as this, it is also a constant reminder of our commitment to the region or location we have visited. Not only are we able to leave something behind when we go, but we then see these Sphere of Change Balls in the updates we receive from the organizations we have worked with.
We see the balls being used, new skills the kids have learned, successful sessions the coaches have had, and we maintain our connection until the next time we are able to visit. We would like to thank our existing Sphere of Change Sponsors. This year we have been fortunate to receive support from Millwall Football Club, Publisher Solutions International, Lewis and Weldon, Team 300, Old Sod Landscaping, Kinlin Grover Real Estate, Exelon Corp, and South Shore Select Soccer.
We truly can’t thank each of these organizations enough. We would not be able to do what we do and impact so many communities if it weren’t for their generous support. As always, we welcome any person or organization who may also be interested in becoming involved. Please see out website under the “ Help Us” page in order to see how you too can become a member of our Sphere of Change initiative. There is something quite moving when you see a photo of a child, a soccer ball, your logo, and the solidified acknowledgement that you have positively changed the course of someone’s life.
Although we are aware that college is not for everyone, we find that the majority of our
UKSD participants do have a desire to pursue their education beyond high school. For some, it
is strictly the pursuit of academic endeavors. For others, they also wish to pursue their athletic
dreams as well. Regardless of the particular route, we believe that it is part of our responsibility,
as coaches and mentors, to expose our participants to varied college campuses, programs,
avenues, and areas of exploration. Furthermore, we also find it imperative to continue our
support of our members well into their transition towards whichever university or institution they
With this being said, we have found part our program centralized around brining our
current high school aged youth leaders to various college campuses and letting them learn, first
hand, what college is all about. During the Spring of 2017, we brought a small group of youth
leaders to Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia for a trip which was undoubtedly an eye
opening experience for each of them. While at Davis and Elkins, we worked side by side with
their Division 2 women’s soccer team on varied tasks. The girls collectively ran a community
service event which allowed local participants from the college’s surrounding towns to
participate in a free soccer event. Our youth leaders were then given a college tour and
individualized mock admissions packets, so that they could begin to see how one would
explore choosing a school based on aspects such as majors, fields, size, athletics, clubs, etc.
Because these youth leaders each expressed an interest in possibly playing at the collegiate
level, they were also given the opportunity to watch a game and then play in a mock “tryout” the
following day. They were shown what would be expected of them physically, mentally, and
tactically in order to be able to play at the next level. It is one thing to tell a young adult what
they will need to do in order to find success at their college of choice, but it is a whole other
element to actually show them what will need to be done. Although the players we brought still
had a few years before they would need to make these types of decisions, this trip allowed them
to start thinking about what they could do now in order to create a smoother transition when the
time came. They began to ask themselves questions such as what choices do I need to start
making academically, socially, and athletically in the next fews years in order to get myself in the
best position possible to not only have options, but to be able to pursue a school and program
which would truly make themselves happy and be the best fit.
Because this trip had been such a great success, we then created a similar trip during
February of 2018 for a group of youth leaders who were also interested in pursuing a college
education but who may be more interested in playing soccer at the club level rather than for the
official collegiate team. For this trip, we brought our youth leaders to the University of South
Florida. What was an added element of this trip was that we were not just specifically working
with the USF coaching staff of admissions, but we were working with a current USF student and
club soccer player, and a young woman who actually came through UKSD herself, Vanessa
Begley. Vanessa has been part of UKSD since it’s conception. Because Vanessa began to
foster a love for the community service aspect of UKSD, she has chosen to pursue an internship
with us as part of her requirements for graduation at USF. As our intern, she has taken on
responsibilities of marketing, program design, and bringing the UKSD mission to her college and
surrounding community. Her work with UKSD did not stop once she graduated high school , but
she has chosen to take it with her through her next phase in life. This is something we hope for
many of our participants.
Vanessa was our “tour guide” for the weekend, offering our youth leaders a one of a
kind experience. Similar to our West Virginia visit, the girls were given a full college tour and
allowed to explore all aspects of campus from dorm rooms, to libraries, study labs, classrooms,
academic centers, athletic centers, cafeterias, etc. Our youth leaders were in awe of the
resources a college campus has to offer. Beyond this, the girls were also given a personalized
presentation on how to make your experience of choosing a college stress free. They discussed
establishing an individualized criteria for what it is you’re looking for in a college, how to delve
into the world of financial aid, how to research what programs a particular school offers, and
how to make the best choice for yourself, your future, and, in many cases, for your family. The
girls were then also invited to participate in a full club practice and a question and answer
session with the USF club players. It was there that they were able to assess if they possessed
the skills needed to play at that level, and they learned what this type of commitment looked
like. Again, being able to experience this directly was invaluable for our youth leaders. When
they begin to actually start making these choices for themselves, they will not be doing so
blindly. They will be able to make both calculated and educated choices.
In addition to bringing current high school aged youth leaders to tour colleges or helping
UKSD alumni to branch out and begin their own community minded endeavors, we have also
had the amazing opportunity to partner with colleges and universities in a slightly different
capacity. This past weekend, we were invited to speak at the Boston University Women’s soccer
banquet. Due to the nature of our work and our involvement in promoting the women’s game,
we were asked to speak about what it means to make a difference, inspire other young women,
and to stay involved in the game of soccer. While speaking at this event, we were able to share
with the BU women’s team just how much impact they have had on others. During our travels to
places such as the Middle East and Kenya, we have worked with women and girls who are
pursuing the opportunity to play soccer. This can prove to be difficult in some areas due to
ingrained cultural beliefs about gender roles and a lack of resources for women. While we help
to promote equality and opportunity for the girls in these areas, we also work to show them that
a future in soccer is possible. On many of these trips, we bring uniforms or gear which colleges
have donated for these girls, and we also bring what we call female inspiration cards with
photographs and messages about what it means to stick together as women and support one
another in the pursuit of our dreams- whatever they may be. On many of these cards we feature
local women’s programs who have been able to do this, one of those being Boston University.
While at the awards banquet, we spoke to the BU team about what an impact their story has
made. It is due to their hard work, passion, and perseverance that they are inspiring girls and
women from countries they have never even been.
It goes without saying that we believe women have an integral role in the future. If we
can help girls in choosing and pursuing their educational and athletic goals, while also
connecting women and girls from all corners of the globe, we will undoubtedly be helping to
solidify that our future is bright and full of hope. We are excited to continue our work and
partnership with colleges and universities, to continue to help support and collaborate with our
alumni, and, most importantly, to continue to help young women rise to their full potentials and
become the best versions of themselves possible.
The UKSD Blog