Soccer For Success helping to grow the game in underserved communities

Soccer For Success
Posted at 3:00 PM, Jun 27, 2022

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Growing your game and being yourself. It's what a program called Soccer For Success is all about.

"I get to exercise and learn new things about soccer," 9-year-old Ryleigh said.

"Ever since I started this program, I've felt more athletic," added 10-year-old Destinee, another participant.

A program that began ten years ago has since served more than 15,000 children. It's a free after-school resource for kids in grades K-8 in underserved communities.

"That's the number one thing we need to do," said Carrie Meyer, Executive Director of the Independent Health Foundation. "We need to go into the communities where there's needs and fill those gaps and soccer for success does that."

Here in Buffalo, Soccer For Success offers seven programs including an all-girl team in Lackawanna. Every time the girls come out to the field, they're provided free soccer gear and instruction.

While the program revolves around the sport itself, the girls also learn about the values of nutrition, engagement, and mentorship.

"These girls understand how important they are and how important their community is," coach Mindy Jo Comangane said.

Which is why you'll notice a handful of girls wearing Nike hijabs, something Independent Health thought was important to provide. It's just another way to make the girls feel comfortable and embrace who they are.

"I'm really happy that they thought of us," one mother said. "They thought about our community, our religion. It's just great. It keeps them comfortable and it's really nice."

"They can run freely and no one is looking at them differently," Meyer said. "They want to make sure that they fit in and that's what we want to make sure that's what we're doing."

Because the coaches say these girls are the future. Providing them this opportunity is only going to help them grow into successful young women.

"Just think about it. If they live in this area for the rest of their life, this could be a lifelong friendship or a lifelong bond," Comangane said. "Who knows, maybe some of these girls will be head coach one day."

Soccer For Success wraps up in late June. A new session will begin in mid-July and runs through September. You can find more information about the free program here.