U.S. Soccer Foundation Program Has Positive Impact on Health Outcomes

When the U.S. Soccer Foundation started the Soccer for Success program in 2009, they served around 4,000 children in 4 cities. Today, Soccer for Success has grown to serve 30,000 kids in over 30 cities across the country. Now, between the hours of 3-6pm, tens of thousands of children in urban centers nationwide are learning healthy lifestyles, soccer skills, and the value of mentorship – at no cost to their families.

Now in its third year, Chester Upland Soccer for Success—a collaboration between Widener University, the Philadelphia Union Foundation, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association, and Crozer Keystone Health System—has produced very positive health results. Of the 383 children participating in the program in fall 2014, 79 percent improved or maintained their body mass index percentile, 73 percent improved or maintained their aerobic capacity, and 52 percent decreased or maintained waist circumference.

The work of the U.S. Soccer Foundation is guided by its goal to transform underserved communities using the sport of soccer. Soccer for Success combines physical activity, nutrition education, mentorship, and family engagement, resulting in a dynamic program that addresses different aspects of youth development - from children’s health issues to juvenile delinquency. This week, the U.S. Soccer Foundation is proud to announce that a third-party, professional evaluation confirms that Soccer for Success has a positive influence on the health of participants.

This report is based upon work supported by the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The Social Innovation Fund combines public and private resources to grow the impact of innovative, community-based solutions that have compelling evidence of improving the lives of people in low-income communities throughout the United States. The Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the U.S. Soccer Foundation a prestigious Social Innovation Fund grant to expand its Soccer for Success program, as well as evaluate its impact on participants.

The Soccer for Success: Implementation and Impact Evaluation found that improvements in health and fitness of Soccer for Success children were statistically significantly greater than those of children in non-Soccer for Success programs. Overall, more children enrolled in Soccer for Success decreased their BMI percentiles, transitioned to healthier BMI percentile categories, decreased their waist circumference size, and improved their aerobic capacity (as shown in higher numbers of completed PACER laps) as compared to non-program children. 

Conducted by Dr. Danielle Hollar and her team at Healthy Networks Design & Research, the yearlong extensive study of Soccer for Success’ examined the health and fitness outcomes of children participating in Soccer for Success as compared to children enrolled in non-athletic, non-nutrition-based afterschool programs in the same communities. Health and fitness data, including Body Mass Index (BMI) percentiles, waist circumference, and completed PACER laps, were collected on children in five cities across the U.S. These combined factors provided a snapshot of the health and fitness status of the participants.

The takeaway from the study’s results are meaningful beyond Soccer for Success: the program’s 3-day-a-week structure and inclusion of nutrition education set a realistic, achievable example for tangible results. Programs like Soccer for Success, show the value of quality out-of-school programming and the need to replicate and expand such efforts in order to improve the landscape of underserved communities. These results are extremely motivating and push us to continue working to build healthier generations through innovative vehicles. With additional insight into outcomes such as education to come, we are excited to see what the next few years hold for Soccer for Success and the U.S. Soccer Foundation.                                                                  

More information about the Soccer for Success impact evaluation can be found on ussoccerfoundation.org

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