NorCal Premier Soccer, a valued partner of Soccer Without Borders, recently caught up for a Q&A with SWB Founder and Oakland Director, Ben Gucciardi. The California-based soccer association regularly sits down with influential figures in the youth soccer landscape to discuss topics relevant to the current soccer environment, and they took this opportunity to dig into Ben's extensive knowledge and past experiences as a player, coach, and director.
The interviewer covered a variety of aspects of Ben's soccer journey, first discussing his introduction to the game as an inspired youngster traveling to a tournament in Mexico, before picking his brain about the state of youth soccer in the US, particularly some of the issues around the lack of accessibility for certain communities. Ben came into his own in the interview as he outlined alternative approaches that could make the game more easily accessible for underserved communities as well. "We need fundamental restructuring of the priorities that we have around youth soccer, where resources are coming from, and where resources are going to" said Ben. "I think if we look at recreation from an educational lens and not see it as something extra, but as a more fundamental part of what is beneficial for kids growing up, then we get closer to the solution."
When asked specifically about the challenges SWB has faced during COVID-19, Ben described how virtual education and social programs have to similarly take into account challenges of accessibility. "Many families didn't have access to internet consistently" he said. "Or what we found a lot was people might have internet, but there was only one device with five kids in the family so maybe five different schools are trying to get the kids to do schoolwork and there's one device."
Despite these challenges, SWB successfully ran an entirely virtual Stay Home Spring Season before transitioning into our Virtual Summer Academy, which brought youth back onto the field while adhering to safeguarding procedures and local government guidelines. SWB is now prepared to take the lessons learned from its virtual and on-field endeavors with youth participants into the fall season.
Read the full Q&A with NorCal Premier Soccer and Ben Gucciardi here>>