America SCORES Chicago
In A Nutshell:
Empower public school students in urban communities using soccer, writing, creative expression, and service-learning. All of their programs require children to use the teamwork they learn on the soccer field to support each other as poets and authors in the classroom. Each week: 2 days of writing/creative classes, 2 days of soccer practice, and soccer games on Fridays; with community events like the Poetry SLAM (creative writing readings) throughout the season.
Why They Rock:
- Students perform their original poetry with teammates at the annual Community Poetry SLAM (2008 video) – on average, student’s writing improves by 10 percent by the end of each season.
- SHOUT!: community service day when poet-athletes display their service-learning projects to friends, family, and peers.
- A study by SCORES found that 87 percent of poet-athletes can run at least 15 percent further by the end of the season (increase in aerobic capacity).
50Give scored a soccer hat-trick in Chicago: played in a soccer league match on Lake Michigan, stayed with my soccer buddy from college, and volunteered at America SCORES Chicago who are training kids to enjoy the world’s most popular sport…they might not create the next Pelé, although they will teach teamwork is how you win on and off the field.
I arrived at the SCORES headquarters and was greeted by a young and lively staff gearing up for the afternoon activities where the soccer/poetry magic happens. Amy (CEO/Smiley) got me rocking right away organizing their supply closet with new donated supplies (crayons, paper, pens, etc.) and I couldn’t resist taking photos in a soccer-easter-basket-thingy…on my head. After the loco photo session and Sharpie organization fiesta…I was sent to assist mellow-cat Jamaica Dean.
My first task at Chamlers School under Dean was to tidy-up the equipment room by pumping up donated balls and organizing cleats while he explained his impressive staff coaching guide-books…he includes pictures which definitely helps if you have no soccer experience. I headed downstairs to meet up with volunteer/writing/dance wizard Marissa, and she let me participate with their dance warm-up used daily to get kids pumped for their creative writing session…check out Amy in the Circle Dance.
Next stop was Corkey School to talk with the soccer coaching staff about the 50Give Tour and help demonstrate with a soccer clinic organized by Sean Phillips, the UIC Men’s Head Coach (also on the Indiana coaching staff when they won the National Championship)…he knows his stuff and gave great pointers to avoid ‘Bumble Bee Soccer’ (when all players gravitate to the ball without any spacing).
I have been stoked from months to visit Chicago, and Ferris Bueller was a minor reason – Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago! For realz, I was able to stay with my best friends Paulie and Stephie (classiest couple on planet – picture proves it) who provided me a comfy bed, unlimited-playtime with their large cat Maximus (borderline Lynx), and treated me to a tasty Italian meal at The Basil Leaf Cafe. My friends apartment is located in Lincoln Park: real hipster part of town filled with cool restaurants like the Austrian Bakery (omy omelet stuffed with peppers in a fun fight with cheese…miss you), home to picturesque running paths that cruise through the zoo (hi cheetah), and I was able to play in a real soccer match steps from Lake Michigan…chicogtaakkee (when you’re really excited in Chicago – say while jumping).
Some of the biggest soccer stars across the globe come very poor areas, Pelé grew up playing barefoot with things resembling a soccer ball: a sock stuffed with newspaper, tied with a string; or a grapefruit…U.S. inner-city kids usually don’t have soccer equipment until America SCORES had a vision: writing/soccer = creativity/teamwork. My vision is a player from the program will make the U.S. Soccer National Team and reverse the stereotypes that only basketball, football, and baseball is important. America SCORES is on the edge of something huge and understands soccer is the heartbeat in almost every country besides the United States: the game is cheap, beautiful, and anybody can play – it’s time we join the biggest party on earth!
“The Vision of a Champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, and the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching.” – Anson Dorrance