There is an electric current running through the soccer world right now as we all watch the greatest women from cross the globe battle it out in the World Cup. For so many young players, watching this tournament gives them a sense of drive and passion. They revel in the success of the women paving the way, and they are inspired to push themselves to achieve their own greatness.
Anyone working with youth as teachers, coaches, or mentors, are responsible for creating environments where these aspiring players can build themselves as both athletes and people. It is our job to help provide them with the tools necessary in order to navigate. This past week, we were honored to be invited to work with South Shore Select in an effort to do just that.
UKSD was invited to attend the South Shore Select welcome camp for their DA, AP, and Honors girl’s soccer programs. We were asked to come up and run some sessions around the concept of social impact through sport. The sessions were centered around how we can use soccer as a tool in order to connect with people from various backgrounds. Just because someone does not look like you, speak like you, or share the same story as you, it does not mean that soccer cannot be a common ground upon which you can both walk.
What was unique about the sessions was that for many of these players it was their first time with in their designated group or tackling this type of work. As with anyone in anew or uncharted environment, many were nervous and not entirely comfortable within their surroundings. The initial activity the players were asked to do was focused on the importance of getting to know others and breaking out of our comfort zones. We have come to realize that the most successful sports teams have a cohesive chemistry and an understanding of one another. It is important to recognize that this is not something which just happens; it is something which needs to be created. Players were asked to begin delving into all that makes them different in an effort to begin to recognize what it is that they have in common. All too often, people are so conditioned to focus on what separates us. Yet, when we truly take the time, we come to discover the threads which weave in and out of each of our stories. It was within this activity that players began to loosen up, and the foundation for their year ahead was beginning to set.
As the activity progressed, players were asked to think about the power of communication and language. Communication and language can be factors which bind individuals and groups, or they can be factors which tear them apart. People often make assumption about others or resign to the notion that they cannot possibly connect because they’re “too different”. Players were asked whether or not it was possible to use soccer as a means of connection when languages are not compatible. The girls were tasked with playing a game of soccer while using only body language and hand signals in order to communicate on the pitch.
After an extended period of play, with minimal instruction or coaching, the players began to come to a profound realization on their own. They realized through experimentation that it would take a good deal of trial and error to finally find a form of communication that would work, but they unanimously concluded that sport, soccer to be specific, can be used a bridge of many sorts. However, they made the strong realization that it is something which is not always going to be easy. We then asked the girls if this was the type of work which they were interested in. Would they be willing to use the game that they all love so much to connect with others who not only speak different languages, but who also come from diverse racial, ethnic, socio-economic, etc. backgrounds? With genuine smiles and a palpable energy, they were all on board.
South Shore Select aims to create strong and independent young women who are willing to use the knowledge and skills they possess to give back to their communities. Soccer may be the connective tissue which binds each of us, but it is only one small piece of the greater whole. When we commit to putting in the hard work, when we attempt to ask important questions, and when we choose to do the right thing, there is no measure the impact we will make on others and on the world around us. It was made abundantly evident that this is planted at the roots of this soccer club, and we cannot wait to continue our connection with these young women.
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