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  • Soccer Without Borders

Play It Forward: "You Play Best When You're Smiling" Recap

Joy is contagious. There is nothing that beats the feeling of being together with teammates and mentors, laughing and learning together. Yet the number one reason that kids quit sports is that it's not fun. Creating joyful and fun sport spaces starts by understanding that players are whole people who come to the field with complex stories, feelings, experiences, and stressors.

Our mantra "You play best when you're smiling" isn't only about fun and joy, but also about how we incorporate self-care and care for others. Many of our participants have experienced acute trauma through forced displacement; many also experience chronic trauma from exposure to community violence, poverty, and unsafe schools and neighborhoods. We incorporate trauma-informed coaching strategies like opening and closing circles, patterned, rhythmic, repetitive behaviors, and predictable, consistent transitions in order to create a sense of safety and promote healing.

This year, our annual Play It Forward campaign celebrated 32 stories from 32 Men's World Cup countries, each detailing how soccer is creating belonging and uplifting communities around the world. Below, we have highlighted five stories which have captured the spirit of our "You Play Best When You're Smiling" mantra.


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