This article by David Lagesse originally appeared on NPR's "Goats and Soda" on May 12, 2016
Soccer Without Borders uses the world's most popular game to reach underserved youth — kids who've experienced trauma, refugee kids — and help them heal and succeed in life.
Based in the Boston area, the organization operates programs in four U.S. cities — Baltimore, Boston, Oakland and Greeley, Colo. — and in Kampala, Uganda, and Granada, Nicaragua, staffed by a mix of refugees. locals and Americans. This month, the nonprofit won the Barry & Marie Lipman Family Prize, which comes with a $250,000 grant and executive training and support from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Mary McVeigh, a former professional soccer player and college coach, helped start the nonprofit in 2006 with Ben Gucciardi, who played soccer at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania when McVeigh helped coach the women's team. She spoke with NPR by phone last week from New York City, where leaders of Soccer Without Borders gathered for an annual meeting and celebration of its 10th anniversary.
What does soccer teach the kids you work with?
Sport is such an interesting tool. In particular, soccer. In a 90-minute game, you have the ball for three or four minutes at most. You spend the majority of your time working with others and reading others and trying to predict what's going to happen. There are many inherent lessons in that. The sport can serve as a living classroom for these kids to learn about overcoming failure, how to react to disappointment, celebrating success and respecting adversaries. You're also meeting kids where they are. That's a huge value in sports: Kids like it. They're invested in it, right into the teenage years.