On Wednesday, September 12th, this year’s fantastic coaches gathered together at Mason Elementary School for their first coach training session of the season. After a round of icebreakers and some healthy snacks, the SCORES programming team went through logistics for the season and best practices for how the coaches can engage their teams. The America SCORES Chicago Program Team also reviewed student safety policies and procedures, best practices in building strong team culture, and positive youth development.
Later in the training session, the writing and soccer coaches broke into two groups to dive deeper into curriculum and practice design. The writing coaches worked on a couple of different icebreaker and writing games to play with their poet-athletes. The soccer coaches engaged in a model soccer session to practice various warm-ups, drills, and games. They ended the training session with a group scrimmage. This was a great start to the season and we can’t wait to see our coaches in action on the field and in the classroom!
As my service term with AmeriCorp and Up2Us Sports comes to a close, I can only recall how invigorating and inspiring the Coaches Training in California was. Uncertain of what to expect and unsure if I could meet the expectations of a SBYD Coach, I couldn’t have anticipated how influential this training would be on my career as a coach and my personal growth. Being surrounded by individuals who share the same passion for youth development, community organization and volunteer service created an environment of allegiance amongst the coaches and trainers. Not only did we share interests, we shared similar challenges, issues, and concerns regarding poor public education, community violence, and a lack of social and emotional support.
Throughout the training, we focused on topics that school systems neglect such as, trauma, informal time, effective relationship building, self-care, and more. To be more specific, the youth in the community I serve are burdened by extreme cases of domestic and gun related violence. The possibility of being the one concrete adult role model is high and it has certainly caused a change in how I lead my life as an example for others. And with knowing that, I committed my time to directly serving the youth in North Lawndale.
One lesson I value is understanding the importance of informal time and creating a space where students feel accepted and safe. I can recall brief moments with my coach at practice or during games, but I can’t think of his favorite color to save my life. So, now as a coach I plan informal time before and after practice, which gives our team the chance to discuss the highs and lows of their day, birthday plans, learn my favorite color and to ultimately build lasting friendships and a positive team culture.
Not too many challenges arose during my service term, yet I anticipated them. Fortunately, I started to build relationships with students prior and I was a familiar face within the school. Immediately after Coach Institute, I began reviewing and tweaking my coaching techniques with the hope that the students would be receptive to a few new strategies, and they were! The most difficult moments were when students would transfer out of the school were no longer able to be apart of the team. This was especially difficult with the students I’d developed relationships with.
Overall, my service year with CAA has been one filled with personal triumph, professional development and has been a catalyst for my future work in youth development, community organizing and mental health research.
-- Stephan Hamer
From June 20th - June 29th, SCORES poet-athletes took part in our summer camp. Every morning, from 9:00 - 11:30 am, campers gathered at the Douglas Park Nike Turf Field to develop new soccer skills, play games, and most importantly, have fun! Each day of camp had a different theme including passing, dribbling, and shooting, so that the kids could work on one skill at a time with their coaches.
During their down time, the campers worked on writing exercises, art projects, and played team building games. They learned about the World Cup and all of the countries involved with their Panini books. Each camper also got to design their very own World Cup soccer jersey. When it got too hot to play soccer, the kids went to the waterpark nearby to cool off and have fun on the playground. When asked what their favorite part of camp was, the kids had a wide variety of answers including, scrimmaging, learning new skills, the water balloon fight, snacks, and Coach Dean. On the last day of camp we celebrated with a big bbq, and everyone got to take home their own soccer ball thanks to Hunt4Soccer. We had so much fun at camp this year, and can’t wait to see everyone back again next year!
On June 22nd, Laureus launched Sport for Good Chicago, their long term commitment to strengthening underserved youth through the power of sport, at America SCORES Chicago’s summer camp. Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, the CEO of Laureus USA and an Olympic gold medalist in track and field, introduced the partnership and shared her passion for sports-based youth development. After that, together with some of the Hidden Gems coaches from the Chicago Red Stars, Benita lead a Q&A where SCORES campers were able to ask the athletes questions and learn more about their experiences as professional athletes. After the Q&A, the athletes participated in camp activities with the SCORES campers.
Later that evening, Laureus held their formal launch event at the Wintrust Arena where team members from the various non profits that Laureus supports gathered together to celebrate the launch of Sport for Good Chicago. Amy Mummery, our Executive Director, who is a member of the Laureus Leadership Council, spoke at the event about the importance of this partnership, and how necessary sports based youth development is for children in Chicago. This coalition aims to foster growth within sport for development nonprofits throughout Chicago through grant opportunities, a wide variety of professional development trainings, and leveraging collaboration between sport for development programs to increase the Chicago footprint. With the support of Laureus Sport for good Chicago, we are looking forward to growing America SCORES Chicago so that we can have a positive impact on the lives of more children throughout the city.
On Saturday, June 2nd, the America SCORES Chicago community came together to celebrate the end of the spring season at Jamboree! The day was filled with soccer, service project presentations, and lots of smiling children. The celebration began with each team presenting their service flags to their families, the volunteers, and the SCORES team. Throughout the day, each team played two soccer games, presented their service projects, and tried to dunk their coaches in the dunk tank. There was also face painting, button making, team picnics & BBQs! At the end of the day, awards were given out based on which teams demonstrated the most teamwork, leadership, and commitment throughout the season. Castellanos won the elementary school golden ball, Catalyst won the elementary school shield of service, and the Hughes boys won the golden boot. This event would not have been such a success without the help of our incredible volunteers from Newell, West Monroe Partners, our Development Board, our alumni, and former members of the SCORES Team. We had a blast and can’t wait to do it all again next year!
With Jamboree right around the corner, we enlisted the help of 10 volunteers from West Monroe Partners in an corporate impact day on Friday June 1st! They started out by helping us load the van with all of our supplies; fortunately, they had a packing expert in their ranks as the van ended up filled to the brim with equipment and snacks!. After that they learned more about the program from Amy, our Executive Director, who inspired and rallied the troops for phase two of the day! Re-energized after some water and snacks, the team went to one of our long-time partner schools, Pilsen Community Academy, to help them out with a few different tasks. They started out by organizing the supply closet: taking inventory and making all of the school supplies more accessible. They ended the day having a blast as they helped out during recess. Some of the volunteers jumped rope and ran soccer drills with the kids while others took part in an impromptu basketball game with the students. Armin, one of the volunteers said, “Today was a great way for us to help out at SCORES, give back to the community and to get to interact with the kids at Pilsen. It’s nice to see the program in action. I’m excited to help out at Jamboree tomorrow!”
On May 11th, SCORES poet-athletes participated in the annual SHOUT Game Day at Douglas Park. In addition to playing soccer, the kids helped clean up the park, went on an exercise scavenger hunt, and conducted interviews with opposition team members, which they used to create a poem about their interview partner. SHOUT! is a great way for the kids to get to know other SCORES poet-athletes who aren’t on their team and may live in different neighborhoods. Partner poetry allows them to bond very quickly over shared interests. Here is am example of one of the poems a poet-athlete wrote:
William is my friend
He’ll be my friend ‘til the end
We play soccer
But he’s not a ball hogger
William is my friend.
After the teams finished their interviews and cleaned up the park, they did a scavenger hunt. Racing around the park, they searched for cards tied to trees. Each card had different exercises for them to do including planks, lunges, and frog jumps and why exercise is an important component of health. Finally, when they were done with each activity, it was time to play soccer (if they had any energy left!). When asked what she thought of SHOUT Game Day, Stephanie said, “my favorite parts were scoring a goal and doing the team interview. I learned that Melanie’s love science, the Cubs, and Taylor Swift, and that her favorite superhero is her sister.” We had a blast at SHOUT and can’t wait to do it all again next year.
Hunt4Soccer is a non profit founded in 2004 in memory of Hunt Silock, who died suddenly in 2002 at the age of 13. Hunt4Soccer works with after school programs like America SCORES Chicago, to prove at risk youth with their own soccer ball that they can keep even after the program ends. So far they have given out over 106,000 soccer balls to children from all across the country.
Hunt4Soccer provides balls for each of our poet-athletes every season. This is extremely beneficial for our kids and gives them the ability to practice at home and stay fit. Each season, Master Coach Dean goes to every school to run an interactive training session and personally hand out the Hunt4Soccer balls after the training. He tells our students about Hunt4Soccer and the impact that this program has on the lives of children all around the country. One April 26th, Coach Dean went to Catalyst, one of our new partner schools this season, and ran the training with the elementary school boys team. He ended the training session by giving out the Hunt4Soccer balls to each happy participant! When asked about getting the Hunt4Soccer balls, Bryan, a 4th grader at Catalyst said, “It was really cool! Some of us didn’t have our own soccer balls so we couldn’t practice at home, but now, because of Hunt4Soccer we can practice everyday!"
We are so excited to kick off our partnership with Hidden Gems. Hidden Gems is a non-profit founded by professional soccer player, Stephanie McCaffrey, a member of the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL and the United States women’s national soccer team. “At Hidden Gems, we were motivated to help young girls from underserved communities foster ambition and develop high impact attributes and life skills. With the limited time we have available as full-time professional athletes, our partnership with America SCORES Chicago provided the mentorship opportunity and the logistical framework we needed to make a positive difference. That being said, this partnership is much more special than your typical business arrangement. When two organizations truly share the same core values and mission with the end goal of doing good for others, the bond is much stronger and the possibilities are much greater!”
We had our first joint-practice on Monday, April 23rd at Pilsen Academy. Katie Naughton and Sarah Gorden joined Coach Karen’s practice and had a blast with our Pilsen elementary school girls team. When asked what she thought of the Hidden Gems coaches, one of the poet-athletes, Jahaita, said, “they were awesome and cool! They helped us a lot. I can’t wait for them to come back and work with us again.” Coach Kari, our program manager said, “I am thrilled to see where the Hidden Gems partnership with America SCORES goes. I think it is great that Red Stars players are willing to come out to schools in high-needs areas to show our poet-athletes that there are fierce, strong, skilled women on and off the field. I think by meeting and interacting with the Red Stars players' our poet-athletes will build lasting relationships and develop higher self-esteem.” We look forward to watching this partnership grow, and can’t wait to see the positive impact that is has on our poet-athletes!