With the advent of Playworks’ 20th Anniversary and our aim of reaching 3.5 million kids in 7,000 schools by 2020, I've launched a blog that I am calling "Bringing out the Best." I welcome your ideas and suggestions for stories!
I love the story of how Ed Foster-Simeon came to lead the US Soccer Foundation, because it is first and foremost a story about being a dad.
Ed didn’t grow up playing soccer. He grew up in Brooklyn and his sport of choice was basketball. When Ed’s kids were very young, he got drafted to coach—it was either that or there wouldn’t be a team. Ed laughs that he wasn’t really a standout coach, but he had excellent organizational skills.
Before he knew it, his volunteer efforts shifted to club administration: Ed found himself President of a northern Virginia soccer club. Fast-forward a couple of years, and Ed had a day job as Deputy Managing Editor for USA Today and a deep passion for his work on the US Soccer Foundation Board, where he was a volunteer. When the outgoing President and CEO asked if he would consider applying, Ed checked with his wife, who lovingly encouraged him to take the job.
Ed’s experiences as a dad come shining through in many of the ways that the US Soccer Foundation has grown and changed under his leadership. Ed’s own work-life flexibility allowed him to engage in his kids’ lives. It also made him recognize that for communities where parents work at hourly jobs or work more than one job, relying on volunteer-led sports structures is almost impossible.
And so, the US Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program was born, bringing soccer to communities around the country. Since 1994, the Foundation has distributed over $100 million in funding, created more than 1,100 Safe Places to Play, and benefited over one million kids. Since shifting to a greater focus on underserved communities in 2009, they have grown to reach over 30,000 kids in 30 hub cities, with plans for continued growth on the horizon'
The way Ed sees it, the work of the US Soccer Foundation isn’t just about promoting the game: it is also about promoting play that improves health and social outcomes. While kids who want to compete should have that opportunity, the game should also be a chance to connect with others and to experience the freedom and joy that play can bring.
And by creating opportunities to play together, the Foundation’s work is also about building relationships. Ed points to the 9 million at-risk kids who need mentors. He suggests that while 1:1 mentoring is ideal, leveraging youth coaches goes a long way toward addressing the shortfall. When Ed talks about the families of his participants, he points to the power of soccer to build community.
At the end of the day, Ed is a dad. Ed and the US Soccer Foundation do what they do because they want all kids to have the benefits that playing soccer can provide, and they know firsthand the joy that watching one’s kids play soccer can bring.