How soccer unites a community

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Soccer Nights brings together youths for five-day camp

When I say "soccer," you say "nights!"
Soccer!
Nights!
Soccer!
Nights!

The coaching directors shouted cheers to the 125 kids participating at the Central Square site of this year’s Soccer Nights program, which was held earlier this summer.

Soccer Nights is a five-day soccer camp for children ages 5-12. It’s offered to the community free of charge, made possible by community sponsors. Soccer Nights’ mission is to promote “athletic skill,” “leadership development,” and “citywide unity in neighborhoods throughout Greater Boston.” The program condenses what it cares about to:  “Soccer. Kids. Diversity. Community. Service. Love.”

From the large group gatherings filled with cheers and dancing, to technical drills, to scrimmages, to healthy snacks, and to the much anticipated Parents vs. Coaches game, Soccer Nights is a very special time of year for both volunteers and families.

The excitement is evident in both the kids and volunteers. A long-time volunteer explains her enthusiasm: “The field is always a hodgepodge of different ethnicities, ages, cultures, and skill levels - it's really beautiful to see it all come together, for the love of soccer. I've volunteered as a coach every summer for the past seven years and would do it again next year in a heartbeat."

So why soccer? The Soccer Nights program loves how soccer is a sport relatable across cultures, uniting and engaging people that might not ordinarily interact. Soccer is also a dynamic context in which to nurture a healthy lifestyle and important life skills on and off the field.

To emphasize the week’s theme of “Heroes,” the curriculum included stories of real-life heroes, like Mia Hamm, Tim Howard, Robby Novak (YouTube’s “Kid President”), and Malala Yousafzai, illustrating the core values of teamwork, perseverance, perspective and sportsmanship. Finally, each night ended with a group dance to Alesso’s EDM-like song, “Heroes,” echoing “We could be heroes. We could be heroes, me and you.”

This program is certainly popular among its communities. It’s organized by a collaboration of people and local churches; and overall, the program’s locations include Central Square, North Cambridge, Medford and Malden. It’s even spread to other states, including Maine, Colorado and North Carolina. When online pre-registration opened for the Central Square location, it filled (and started a long waiting list) on the first day!

The Central Square, North Cambridge and Medford sites have completed the week-long camp with overwhelming success. The Malden site will run in the following weeks.

For more information on Soccer Nights, please see their website: http://www.soccernights.org.

For full disclosure, the author of this piece was involved in the organizing of Soccer Nights. Photos courtesy of Soccer Nights.