Another exciting summer of the Chicas Soccer Academy wrapped up this month. This year, 110 girls in grades three through twelve participated. The girls were separated into nine teams and three age groups. The volunteer coaches were all women, including a few from our Chicas staff.
Araceli Mendez, Chicas Facilitator and Project Coordinator for the Soccer Academy, organized the academy this year. "The Soccer Academy began to provide low-income young Latinas the experience of playing soccer (a sport usually geared towards boys) and introduce them to a healthier lifestyle", says Araceli. "There are very little opportunities for girls to join organized sports, let alone affordable ones. Soccer Academy is a great place for young girls to get to know each other and gain confidence in the skills they are learning. We've had Chicas who have participated in Soccer Academy all eight years it has been running because it is a fun summer activity, it's free, and they get to meet more Latinas from their community."
Girls with all levels of soccer experience are welcomed. "The girls' soccer skills improve so much", says Araceli. "Some come in not knowing how to properly kick a ball and leave with a new passion for goalkeeping. Their sense of teamwork is stronger because they work with the same coach and the same team the whole summer and build friendships through the sport."
One aspect that the Chicas team is sure to incorporate into the Chicas Soccer Academy is family engagement. "This academy takes the holistic approach of Adelante Mujeres to teach the girls and their families how to lead healthier lifestyles", Araceli explains. "The girls learn the importance of exercise and during the workshops at practice, their families learn about healthy snacks and ways they can also exercise. The beauty of the academy is that everyone benefits in one way or another."
"In addition to the soccer practices each week, parents met for lessons such as yoga and Zumba", explains Esme, our Chicas Family Engagement Specialist. "During these meetings, they decided to come together to see how they could contribute to the Chicas Soccer Academy. The parents organized themselves and decided to donate food to sell and/or to volunteer their time during the tournament. The funds raised will go towards next year's Chicas Soccer Academy."
Our Chicas Soccer Academy is only possible becuase of the support of our community. A special thanks to all of the volunteer coaches, as well as Nike for volunteering their time and for their donation of raffle items that made tournament day extra special for the the Chicas.
"This event is important because it brings the entire family together", said Esme. "One of the parents communicated to me that she was thankful for what we do for the girls and that it means a lot to her. She was thankful for the opportunity to participate and was extremely grateful for all of the parents that helped during the fundraiser. She felt we all made an awesome team. We hope to continue to strengthen the bond between the Chicas and their parents and empower the entire family to actively participate in the community."