Louisa Walters finds out how Super Soccer Stars are achieving goals

140403-BrooklynBridgePier5-Thursdays-1050-10WEBAnyone who’s brought up children will know that a football is an extremely useful tool when it comes to encouraging social interaction and building bridges. Give two boys a ball, send them out into the garden, problem solved. Here in the UK, it’s taken for granted that kids play football at school, with their friends, at weekly classes and at school holiday schemes.

Super Soccer Stars, founded in the US 15 years ago, has brought a new level of expertise to football coaching, in particular through an extensive child development programme that brings football to children as young as one. The organisation teaches soccer skills in a fun, non-competitive and educational environment and last year it was launched here in the UK.

“Our philosophy is to use soccer to nurture, to build self-confidence, and to develop teamwork,” says Adam Waters, regional coordinator in London. Their extensive curriculum, designed by child development specialists, helps children develop social, emotional, cognitive and motor skills, as well as improving literacy and numeracy.

A low child-to-coach ratio ensures that each child improves at his or her own rate, and gets the individual attention and positive reinforcement needed to develop each week.

Super Soccer Stars has forged strong links with the communities in which it works, running weekly classes at JW3, Kinloss, New North London Synagogue and other communal organisations. With classes running for children aged from one to 10 across London, the extensive early years curriculum has meant a strong connection with local nurseries and children’s centres.

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FunInTheSun2However, not all children have access to this opportunity. Super Soccer Stars also has a charity foundation called Round Star Foundation. This USA-based not-for-profit organisation is dedicated to ensuring that football is accessible to all, regardless of ability or income.

“Soccer is the one language that is understood by the vast majority of people on our planet,” says founder Gustavo Szulansky. “Regardless of culture, gender, origin, religion or national origin, socioeconomic standing or degree of ability, any child on earth can benefit from learning and playing soccer.”

Through the generous donations from partners and parents, and with the help of Super Soccer Stars, The Round Star Foundation has managed to bring football, education, equipment and clothing to some of the poorest communities around the world.

Each year, the Building Soccer Bridges programme runs trips to partner communities in Zimbabwe and Brazil, delivering adult education courses and training, as well as running football classes for the communities’ children. The communities are left with crates of equipment, from footballs to cones, as well as T-shirts donated by Super Soccer Stars parents.

“Having the opportunity to cross borders and continue what we do here is amazing,” says managing director Toby Tenenbaum.

The Shine Programme runs alongside Super Soccer Stars to run specialised classes for children with additional needs. Through the allocation of shadow coaches, or through specific classes with high coach-to-child ratios, the Shine Programme works with children and adults with autism, Down syndrome and ADHD.

The Round Star Foundation also allocates scholarships and bursaries to children wishing to enjoy Super Soccer Stars classes, in particular the elite Star Premier competitive classes. Some children have attained scholarships to college in the US as a result of this initiative.

Back here in the UK, the Foundation enables Super Soccer Stars to run subsidised classes for families who can’t afford the termly fees, as well as bringing classes to the Lubavitch school in Stamford Hill.

The Round Star Foundation and Super Soccer Stars have brought quality early years football programming with a philanthropic conclusion to the London community,

• Visit london.supersoccerstars.com or roundstarfoundation.org