The potential for soccer to inspire youth to achieve growth, inclusion, and personal success requires more than simply playing the game. We believe that results come from the commitment of trained, caring coaches and mentors who use a range of activities to develop the whole person — not just the player — and foster a safe, supportive team community.
Our programs are effective because of our ability to address barriers to access, our long-term, year-round investment in participants, and the mentoring relationships formed.
Our program framework is design to minimize cultural, logistical, and economic barriers to participation, reaching youth that too often fall through the cracks. The hard work of our direct service staff to implement these strategies has led to retention rates of 70% or more within Soccer Without Borders teams.
Middle and high school years are crucial in the development of a young person. Rather than focus on one or the other, Soccer Without Borders programs are a consistent presence throughout these developmental years.
One-quarter of participants have been with SWB for three or more years.
Our family atmosphere is one of the defining characteristics of Soccer Without Borders teams. This is created through 35+ weeks of programming each year, with 8-15 hours of scheduled activities available to each team, in addition to unscheduled, informal time with teammates, coaches and mentors.
Research tells us that mentoring relationships of 12 months or more can have a significant impact on academic outcomes and psychosocial development. We prioritize consistent, well-trained head coaches who commit to a year or more with their teams. In 2020, our average head coach tenure was 43 months.
Our participants come from 68 countries and speak 54 languages. Each has a unique story.
The majority of Soccer Without Borders participants are English language learners, honing their English skills for 8-15 additional hours per week outside of school. SWB activities take place in a variety of different contexts, maximizing exposure to different vocabulary. In fact, SWB Baltimore has designed a curriculum that integrates language learning into practices on the field. Youth like Manuel at SWB Baltimore credit SWB with improving English skills, "It's why I know English now, because when I started to play, I didn't really speak English at all, but playing with them...it helped me learn English because I had to speak." Learn more about how language development and soccer go hand in hand at SWB Oakland in "How Youth Learn."
While limited English speakers across the United States graduate high school at a rate of less than 60%, 95% of regular SWB participants (USA) have graduated from high school. Of these, 92% have gone on to two or four year colleges. Internationally, our Nicaragua program is also shattering academic outcome statistics, with 87% of regular participants in primary and secondary school passing their grade. In Nicaragua, just 46% of students enroll in secondary school at all. The combination of academic interventions, leveraging passion for soccer for academic investment, regular tutoring and a culture of positive school engagement within the supportive team environment leads to uncommon outcomes across SWB programs.
Our volunteer approach is built on the concepts of reciprocal impact and authentic collaboration, defining service as a two-way street. Annually, more than 500 volunteers donate more than 10,000 hours of service to SWB, a value of more than $200,000. From family mentors, to tutors, coaches, event staff, fund raising gurus, pro bono legal and technical services and more, our volunteers know how to put their skills to work! The benefit, though, is mutual, as our volunteers gain cross-cultural comptency, professional skills, and learn from the youth and families in our programs. In 2015, researchers from the University of Illinois published this study on our most intensive volunteer program, the Team Leader year abroad. Volunteer testimonials can be found here.