Soccer Shots is a children’s soccer program with a focus on character development. The company positively impacts children’s lives on and off the field through best-in- class coaching, curriculum and communication. Founded by two professional soccer players, Soccer Shots is an international franchise program focused on not just introducing children ages 2-8 to the game of soccer, but also building character, teaching discipline and inspiring fitness. From its humble beginnings, Soccer Shots has grown beyond the company’s wildest dreams, with over 175 territories across 34 states. In 2016, more than 300,000 children participated in Soccer Shots.
In August of 2009, the Soccer Shots partners founded the Soccer Shots Foundation, the non-profit arm of Soccer Shots. The Foundation provides opportunities to economically challenged children within the U.S. and around the world through the game of soccer.
Below is a Q&A with Ryan McGonigle, Director of the Soccer Shots Foundation about his background and how the Foundation is using soccer to impact underserved children.
What motivated you to help make a positive impact on undeserved communities throughout the U.S.? How have your previous experiences prepared you for this mission?
I believe that every child regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background should have access to opportunities, mentors and resources that can help them reach their full potential. Previously, I helped develop a non-profit organization in South Africa that uses soccer as a medium to empower youth with the skills they need to face life’s challenges.
I worked with a range of people from non-profit leaders to teachers to former gangsters and all were able to join together as a community around the opportunity to empower children with the skills they needed to reach their goals.
It was a life-changing experience to see how much a safe place to play or strong mentor could impact a young person’s life.
Why are sports like soccer powerful vehicles for youth development, and how do they improve the surrounding community?
Soccer is a universal language that children from a young age can “speak” regardless of class, race or ethnicity.
The game itself provides a platform for learning a variety of life-skills such as teamwork, determination and respect in a way that can be applied both on and off the field. Each game provides numerous moments for youth to learn whether it be showing teamwork by passing the ball upfield or respectfully dealing with a bad call by the referee. By having safe places to play and local leaders available to draw on and explain these teachable lessons, youth are able to learn from minor struggles to help them become better community members.
The Soccer Shots Foundation has served as the presenting sponsor of the Urban Soccer Symposium for the past three years with plans to sponsor the event for at least three more. Can you tell us more about the Symposium and its objectives?
The Urban Soccer Symposium, presented by Soccer Shots, hosts community leaders and speakers from across the nation who are dedicated to improving the field of sports-based youth development. The Symposium features three days of interactive workshops focused on sharing best practices and maximizing organizations’ impact in the community. It provides a platform for leaders dedicated to improving the field of soccer-based youth development, to connect, innovate and enhance their programs. In an industry where resources are extremely limited and formal professional development opportunities are near non-existent, over one hundred organizations join together to learn and discuss best practice methods to further impact the lives of youth across the nation.
Long term, what are you hoping to achieve with your work at The Soccer Shots Foundation? What can we do in the short term to support the cause?
I think we are uniquely positioned in this space as we are connected to a national network of Franchise Owners through Soccer Shots that are passionate about positively impacting children in communities across the country. The Soccer Shots Foundation was created to extend that impact by raising funds and awareness for non-profit partners that support the physical and personal development of economically challenged children through soccer.
My goal for the Soccer Shots Foundation over the next ten years would be to raise over one million dollars to be invested into lasting programs and impactful initiatives that provide underserved youth with the access, mentors and opportunities that they need to reach their potential. In the short term, I would ask supporters to strive to be a catalyst for our mission in whatever capacity they can. Identify your local non-profit that is using soccer for community development and offer your time or skills (not necessarily soccer) to further their mission. In kind donations where volunteers use their business skills to assist NGO’s are valued resources. If you would like to support the Soccer Shots Foundation directly, we would encourage you to donate and or contact us to get more information.
What simple advice can you give to people who are thinking about getting involved in the social impact arena that will help spur them into action?
Know yourself to lead yourself. Reflect on what you enjoy doing and what social impact you are passionate about. Make a time commitment that you feel comfortable to spend each week doing one activity that will help you become a relevant expert on an issue. It could be attending a meeting, volunteering for one hour or researching a specific cause. As you become more educated and passionate about an issue, you will find yourself figuring out ways to infuse your innate skills to enhance your efforts and be a true catalyst for social change.