Men's Soccer Gives Back to the Community
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Howard University men’s soccer team took their places in the arena. They were prepared for anything that would come in those few hours. With the first tap of the ball to booted feet, squeals of delight fill the air. Yes, squeals, from the hundreds of elementary school children ready to learn some fancy footwork from the Howard University men’s soccer players who are bouncing the ball around on heads, shoulders, knees and toes. As a volunteer effort during spring break, the Howard University men’s soccer team took over gym classes for the day at local elementary and middle schools.
They had a blast with the children, teaching them soccer techniques, emphasizing the importance of a good education, and showing them the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. The men’s soccer team revealed themselves to be a bunch of regular guys that epitomize humble-confident-happy-cool, with skills as well as presence that exemplify excellence and encourage team spirit. The “soccer clinics” were a hit and each school requested a return visit. Coach Lawrence hopes that by this outreach to local schools they can help students stay on track academically and reduce the dropout rate in our communities by keeping kids active and engaged.
Within the past few weeks, the team has participated in a series of events to kick off their multifaceted community and youth outreach program designed to: 1. Encourage physical activity in our youth, 2. Advance mentoring initiatives with positive, young, male, culturally-connected role models, 3. Establish creative alternatives to stave off negative youth behaviors, 4. Advocate community unity and 6. Initiate sustained grass roots neighborhood improvement projects.
The Howard University men’s soccer program, in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture, participated in a “Knowledge is Power” service project in celebration of Black History Month. A book and school supply drive during the month of February was conducted to encourage scholastic achievement in our local schools. Approximately 1200 items were collected and distributed to local K-12 schools under the USDA’s “Adopt A School” program. The men’s soccer team would like to thank the Howard University family, alumni, and members of the neighboring community for donating time, energy, and supplies to enrich the academic experience of children in our schools.
The statistics are staggering, “every school day, about 7,000 students decide to drop out of school – a total of 1.2 million students each year” (3). Mentoring has been proven to reduce negative youth behavior (including substance abuse reduction by 70% in minority communities), improve attendance, encourage better attitudes towards school, and result in a better chance of youth going on to higher education (4). In addition to the academic situation facing our youth, “obesity rates tripled in the last 30 years”, which indicates a need for sustained health awareness programs in our communities (2). The Howard University men’s soccer team intends to continue its volunteer youth mentoring effort, involving conducting soccer clinics for our local schools, in an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle and excellence in academics.
Additionally, the team began a peer mentoring/champion program to exchange expertise, encourage positive feedback, improve team academic standing, foster healthy social values, and actively apply personal knowledge gained from classroom studies to advance Howard University and enrich campus life. Within this program, the team has committed to be honor bound to support each other through group study and positive encouragement, such that everyone prospers in athletics as well as academics. It has been shown that “training alone increases…productivity by 24%; the combination of mentoring and coaching increases productivity by 88%” (5). Additionally, “a study of professionals shows those who have had mentors earn between $5,610-$22,450US more, annually, than those who do not have mentors” (5). The objective of this effort is to ensure that graduates from the Howard University men’s soccer program are well prepared for the workforce and that they have a positive social outlook towards peer support directed towards group success.
Staff members at the Howard University Department of Athletics would like to express a sincere thank you to the men’s soccer team for dedicating their energy to community outreach and a collaborative peer champion project during the 2010 spring break.
The following are quotes from some of the players regarding their spring break experience:
Freshman Adrian Walton, Apex, NC
I was excited about the experience gained from our volunteer community service activity. I made strong bonds with my teammates, I gave back to the community, and most importantly I had fun doing it.
Freshman Patrick Rose, Abingdon, MD
Overall, staying at Howard with my teammates during spring break was a thoroughly enriching experience. We got to make a difference in the D.C community through volunteer work and learn more about each other individually.
Sophomore Fredrick Burgess, Springfield, VA
I am happy that I stayed back for spring break and volunteer with the team activities. I bonded with my teammates and learned how important and fulfilling it is to give back to the community who support our team. After spring break I think we increased our fan base. From now on, I will start looking for more opportunity to volunteer around the area.
Junior Jamil Devers, Los Angeles, CA
Concerning the volunteer work during spring break, I found the sessions were extremely gratifying and worth-while. I felt that we were able to somehow impact the mind set of most of the youth toward the pursuit of attending college through our basic interactions with them. We really wanted to show them that anything is possible through hard work.
Freshman Evan Turner, Eugene, OR
Spring break, this year, was a truly essential experience for the Howard University men's soccer team. It not only presented the opportunity to give back to the community, as a team, but it also brought the team together. We spent all of our time together getting to know each other as well as ourselves on another level.
Junior Rodino Wright, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
I really got a chance to catch up on my academics over the spring break, which was one of our goals as a team. Working with those kids and seeing the light in their eyes was very rewarding for me. We wanted to show them that they have a bigger family out there and that someone cares. The volunteer experience really opened up my eyes to some of the needs of the world and made me appreciate the opportunity that I have here at Howard University.
Freshmam Phillip Borde, Ocoee, FL
Spring break was a step towards team unification academically. Not only was it beneficial for the team to bond together, it was also good to interact and give back to the community.
Junior Christopher Sutherland, Brooklyn, NY
During the spring I got to do some volunteering at local DC area schools. I also got a chance to focus on my academics over the spring break which was what our coach emphasized is the most important reason why we are at the University. We also spent a lot of time together as a team which was important.
5. Source: American Society for Training and Development, 1998 and Source: HR Magazine, April 1998