It has become increasingly clear that soccer is a “pay to play” sport. That is, families who can afford full-time coaches, extensive travel, and private lessons are advantaged. This is, in large part, due to a lack of additional resources to support underserved children.
The Phoenix Rising FC Youth Soccer program has children with amazing stories that we have supported in the past.
Consider the 16-year-old boy who lives in a mobile home with his two siblings and his mother (a domestic worker) and his father (a day laborer). The boy, described as “the heart and soul of this team” by his coach, travels 45 minutes each way to practice three days a week, assists in caring for his younger siblings, and currently has a 3.95 grade point average. He hopes to become a pediatric neurosurgeon. Or, meet the 15-year-old girl who serves as the captain of her team and was once described as, “a warrior and consummate team player” by her coach. Her father was recently killed, leaving her mother and two siblings (both of whom are in the Club) without steady income. This young woman told us, “I find peace on the soccer pitch with my teammates.” She has a 3.85 gpa and hopes to become a teacher.
These represent only two stories of many, but we feel compelled to assist young people like them in being able to find peace as well as be part of teams that are competitive and sources of connection and normalcy. There are several stories in our Club like this. We want to support children to help them achieve their life goals; one way of doing this is by attending college through their gifts as soccer players. The Club has sent over 1,000 players to college in the past decade - playing for anyone from Stanford to Arizona Christian to the University of Dayton and everywhere in between. Many of those young people have come back to the Valley and are now teachers, lawyers, doctors, moms and dads.
There are many parents in the Club who support these players by giving to the Club’s Foundation. We once had a parent of another player on a team, when asked why he contributed to the Foundation write, “These kids deserve a chance. And my son, who has spent his entire life in privilege learns so much from the teammates we support. He has come to understand what dedication and hard work really means, and he’s a better person because of his interactions with these young people.”
While, we believe it is important to support elite players, it is equally important to support and develop a love of the game. Our goal is to create weekly soccer activities working with youth in Anthem, Prescott, Glendale, South Scottsdale and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. In some of these communities, the childhood obesity and diabetes rates are over 50%. We believe that promoting an active lifestyle through weekly soccer training will both address the some of the health benefits and grow the love of the game. The trainings will be assisted by elite players in the Club, thereby completing the cycle of giving back and of preparing citizens who understand the importance of giving back.