Foundation Stories: Street Soccer USA brings the game to the people

November 29, 2016
By: Taylor Miller

The NSCAA Foundation, established in 1989, was built upon the mission of creating soccer-coaching opportunities to under-served and impoverished communities across the U.S. Each year, several grants and scholarships are made available to individuals and organizations that echo their own interpretations of this mission.

For the year of 2015, Street Soccer USA, a nonprofit organization based in New York and located in 14 cities across the country was chosen to receive the Doug May Fund, a grant designed to aide individuals and organizations involved in soccer outreach in western New York.

According to Oliver Weiss, Street Soccer USA National Program Director, the organization was inspired by the dream of creating a sense of belonging and encouragement for people living on the streets and in shelters through the forum of soccer. “It started out by Street Soccer USA going to shelters and finding people at rock bottom and helping them to be a part of a team,” said Weiss. “Soccer offered a sense of home and offered hope for improving their lives. We want to offer better experiences. I have been with Street Soccer USA since June of 2015 and I have seen extraordinary examples of the mission. I have seen people’s lives change.”

One key component to the organization’s potential to impact lives according to Weiss, is Street Soccer USA’s official partnership with the Homeless World Cup and the Street Child World Cup.

“The Homeless World Cup is an annual competition to build attention to the issue of homelessness,” explained Weiss. “It is typically held in iconic places, and 64 countries are generally represented. We are partners with the Homeless World Cup and the team is selected upon the basis of our nomination process. For us, it is not about ability. We put forward not the best players, but the best all-around individuals. We take them to international events and show them how amazing their accomplishments are. They are moving forward.”

According to Weiss, for the members of the homeless community selected to be a part of the national team, the Homeless World Cup experience is one that builds confidence and instills hope.

“These individuals are extraordinary,” said Weiss. “We have folks who used to be in shelters that now own their own businesses. The confirmation of the adult players helps them to move on and move forward with their lives. Each of these people generally has an incredible story. When they finish attending the Homeless World Cup, they feel a sense of confidence. It brings the world together. It is very much about the embrace of overcoming difficulty- that is the spirit.”

Outside of the excitement of the Homeless World Cup experience, Weiss explained the power and fulfillment he enjoys in the daily routine of his involvement with Street Soccer USA.

“The real joy is in the day to day work. Working with both the youth and the adults and developing extraordinary coaches- the day to day work is what makes the real difference,” said Weiss. “It is easier said than done, but we have the knowledge to fight poverty using soccer as a way to improve lives. We are in urban areas in under-served communities. There is an unbelievable amount of expert knowledge that hopefully can be disseminated in these areas.”

According to Weiss, soccer coaching education is a necessity within the communities Street Soccer USA interacts with. Coaching education is difficult to access, and there is a hunger to fill that void.

“I am an NSCAA member and I’m aware of what the Foundation does. I suggested we apply for the grant and the staff here agreed,” said Weiss. “We got a resounding response and we are very grateful. We want to pass on valuable coaching education in the communities that we work in, communities that generally don’t have access to these resources. They don’t have access to coaching education and the coaches in these communities are hungry for it. The kids are gems, and they need that guidance and support. The NSCAA is a great partner with so much experience with coaching education: 75 years. It is awesome to have such a combination of expert services.”

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