Evaluation Results Snapshot
Six years ago, the U.S. Soccer Foundation started Soccer for Success, an afterschool program that uses soccer as a tool to address children’s health issues and juvenile delinquency, while promoting healthy lifestyles in urban underserved communities. What started as a small program serving 4,000 children in four cities, has grown to serve 30,000 children in over 30 cities today. Combining physical activity, nutrition education, mentorship, and family engagement, Soccer for Success has transformed underserved communities nationwide by getting kids off of the streets and into a safe environment where they can learn soccer skills, healthy lifestyles, and the value of mentorship.
In 2011, the Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the Foundation with a prestigious Social Innovation Fund grant to replicate and expand Soccer for Success, as well as evaluate the program’s impact on participants. The U.S. Soccer Foundation has announced that the Soccer for Success: Implementation and Impact Evaluation proves that Soccer for Success has a positive impact on participants in a statistically significant way when compared to children who were enrolled in afterschool programs other than Soccer for Success at the same schools or in the same neighborhoods. As previously noted, this study is based upon work supported by the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The Social Innovation Fund combines public and private resources to grow the impact of innovative, community-based solutions that have compelling evidence of improving the lives of people in low-income communities throughout the United States. With results such as these, Soccer for Success, sets a tangible example of how efficient, coordinated afterschool efforts can help improve children’s health and wellness in underserved communities across the country.
"This independent evaluation of the Soccer for Success program authenticates the positive influence physical activity and health education can have on at-risk youth," says Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. "To show our program's efficacy is both assuring and motivating. We are proud to see our mission at work, as we continue to use soccer as a vehicle to improve health and social outcomes among children in underserved areas."
Conducted by Dr. Danielle Hollar and Healthy Networks Design & Research, the yearlong study 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. Health and fitness data, including Body Mass Index (BMI) percentiles, waist circumference, and completed PACER test laps, were collected in order to provide a snapshot of the health and fitness status of the participants. Overall, more children enrolled in Soccer for Success decreased their BMI percentiles, transitioned to healthier BMI percentile categories, decreased their waist circumference, and improved their aerobic capacity (as shown in higher numbers of completed PACER test laps) as compared to non-program children.
The study concludes that the positive health impact of Soccer for Success calls for the implementation and expansion of efficient, coordinated afterschool efforts, such as this program, and other youth sports programs that include physical activity and nutrition education to help combat childhood obesity. By harnessing the connective power of soccer to spark social change in under-resourced communities nationwide – programs like Soccer for Success – have the opportunity to make a significant impact in the communities they serve.
Washington Youth Soccer just completed its third year of administering the Soccer for Success program in Washington State, and currently serves 13 elementary schools in the Highline, Kent, and Auburn School Districts. To learn more about the Soccer for Success programs in Washington, click here, or contact Rachel Wilton at RachelW@WashingtonYouthSoccer.org or 253-944-1609.
The results of this evaluation were presented at the American Heart Association’s Epi-Lifestyle conference earlier this spring, as well as published in the AHA’s journal, Circulation. Additional highlights from the Soccer for Success impact evaluation and information can be found at ussoccerfoundation.org.