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  • Soccer Without Borders

Rethinking Competition: How SWB In-House Leagues Promote Socio-Emotional Learning and Healthy Play

What was the world's biggest soccer competition of the past winter? The SWB Champions League! Featuring eight high school-aged SWB Oakland teams—in addition to a team of alumni—we ran our own in-house league this winter, combining quality soccer, healthy competition, and SWB values. With the SWB Champions League, we brought organized league play to our participants, but also included several aspects sometimes absent from youth soccer.

Fair Play Points: At the end of each game, teams get together to award “Fair Play Points” to their opponents, assessing the level of respect, positivity, and sportsmanship they saw. These points counted the same as a goal scored during open play, giving a big incentive to have good on-field conduct and attitude. Teamwork and collaboration are ultimately more important to the result of a game, and we aim to emphasize that with every team.

Restorative Referees: Match officials play a huge role in the experience of SWB participants, and have the power to help determine the narrative of a game. Our volunteer referees have a good understanding of our program, our values, and most importantly, our participants—allowing them to create a positive atmosphere and experience for both teams. This can mean taking time to explain a foul or certain rule, intervening to diffuse a potential conflict, or having the patience and flexibility to utilize trauma-informed coaching and officiating.

Inclusivity: Club soccer brings a high level of play and good competition, but not always for all. We emphasize inclusivity in the SWB Champions League, bringing teams together from five different SWB Oakland sites. Our teams are organized by where our participants feel most comfortable. Cultural exchange and meeting new friends is an important part of our program, but we allow players to decide which team they feel is the best fit for them—socially, emotionally, and physically.

We enjoy the benefits of organized leagues in the East Bay, and it’s a crucial part of our programming. With the SWB Champions League—emphasizing socio-emotional learning and SWB values—we aim to combine the benefits of competition and league play with an increased concentration on respect, positivity, and teamwork, providing our participants with the best soccer experience possible.

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