Interview Spotlight: Soccer In The Streets With Director of Coaching Lauren Desmond
The emergence of soccer in communities across the United States is creating a bright future for the sport. Without individuals dedicated to making a difference in these communities, the world’s beautiful game could remain a mystery for many who dream of playing on the pitch.
Atlanta’s Soccer In The Streets is bringing the game to inner city youths and helping the sport offer kids important life lessons.
Soccer News: Atlanta has made its way onto the soccer season with its MLS franchise set to take the field for its inaugural season this year.
Atlanta United has not wasted any time for making an impact in the community with a mini pitch recently developed at the Five Points MARTA Station in partnership with Soccer In The Streets, a non-profit organization based in Atlanta.
The mini pitch is the world’s first soccer field built in a transit station and is paving the pathway for the beautiful game to reach all communities in Atlanta.
Lauren Desmond, Director of Coaching and Education, explains that the focus of Soccer In The Streets emphasizes empowering youth through soccer. This also extends to enhancing character development at young ages, mentoring and developing employability.
“We are moving towards our initiative of social impact soccer,” says Desmond.
The Soccer In The Streets crew is dedicated to providing youth in the region with innovative alternatives for learning to grow not only on the pitch.
“What we want to do – our vision – is to provide youth with opportunities to succeed no matter what,” states Desmond.
“We don’t want financial barriers; we don’t want gender barriers. We truly believe that every kid should have the chance for success.”
Prior to working for Soccer In The Streets, Desmond taught Kindergarten through 6th grade P.E. and was an athletic director for middle school and high school sports.
“It was long hours, days and weeks. I enjoyed it, but something was missing,” says Desmond.
Desmond grew up playing soccer in Atlanta and played collegiately at the University of Georgia where she majored in Health and Physical Education. She went on to pursue a Masters in Sport Pedagogy.
She now steps into a new role after serving as the school-based Program Manager where she implemented after school programs in Atlanta elementary public schools.
Desmond does not shy away from recognizing her colleagues as having the passion that not only motivates youth, but also herself and others at Soccer In The Streets.
“My colleagues are very passionate individuals,” says Desmond. “They’re in the business of soccer for providing opportunities for kids that may not have that.”
She notes that her boss Jill Robbins has served as a mentor to her during her time with the company.
“She has a wealth of knowledge to instill in me,” says Desmond. “I would say she is just an overall compassionate human being.”
The Scoop on the MARTA Mini Pitch
In recent news, Soccer In The Streets is hurdling over the development of its first mini pitch at the Five Points MARTA Station, which is the central hub of transit in Atlanta.
“We have kids coming from Vine City. Kids from Egypt that have just moved here — it’s just a melting pot. It’s unreal,” says Desmond.
“We are programming adult leagues in order to have a sustainable model where their payments support our youth programs that are free,” states Desmond.
The new field is serving all ages of the community with a model built to provide youth players an opportunity to enjoy programs held at the location for free.
With the adult leagues kicking off in recent weeks, Soccer In The Streets is working closely with MARTA to develop more mini pitches across the city. Hopes to connect the the neighborhoods and create a league between the regions is in sight for a possible future venture.
The Outreach to Build New Soccer Communities — and Microsoft is Helping
Soccer In The Streets targets communities that have lacked any real organized opportunity for soccer to be played.
Many of the kids in the areas have never played in a soccer league before. Why? Simply because it has never been offered.
“The goal is to bring a little bit of structure in order to have that safe place to play and teach the game,” says Desmond.
She explains that the lack of opportunities in these regions seem to be more of a cultural barrier where football and basketball are the preferred sports.
“We’re a new opportunity and have connected with those communities to bring that to them,” says Desmond.
Desmond highlights her and her colleagues’ ability to not only fundraise for bringing programs to communities, but also develop relationships with families in these areas as being empowering.
“I’ve gotten to know a lot of these families and they’re really amazing people,” states Desmond.
With many organizations willing to provide resources for developing youth programs in the community, Soccer In The Streets strives to create relationships with companies in order surface the worth of their contributions.
Desmond explains the goal is not just to gain the support and resources from donating companies, but also for them to get involved with their mission.
For example, similar to other companies, Microsoft has a program where its employees come out to work and then Soccer In The Streets gets paid for their volunteer time.
“A lot of companies do that, but we want to get them to invest in what we are doing and see the impact they are making,” says Desmond.
Soccer In The Streets will be hosting a Corporate Cup during the fall in order to fundraise resources for their programs. The one-day coed soccer tournament asks for the participating players to raise a given amount of money, while the host company matches their earnings.
All proceeds will then be given to develop and sustain its soccer programs for Atlanta’s youth.
2017 is set to be a great year for soccer in Atlanta. Providing the inclusion of all communities to become involved with the growth of the beautiful game is exciting for those long time fans and individuals who are now quickening their feet to the pace of the game.
Atlanta’s first MLS match is scheduled for Sunday, March 5th, versus the New York Red Bulls at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The community will surely be well represented as Soccer In The Streets continues to engage with neighborhoods that are now thrilled an MLS club is coming to town.
“Atlanta is ready! These kids are very excited for the new team,” says Desmond. “It’s wonderful to watch a kid’s eyes light up when they have the opportunity to meet an academy player for the first time. Local kids are basically living in the Atlanta United shirts they received at the MARTA Launch event back in October. They love it!”
For more information about Soccer In The Streets visit here.