Stories | June 1, 2017

How a North Vancouver Youth Soccer Club Uses Charity to Develop Players

Charity does so much for Canadians, from supporting those most in need, to preserving vulnerable ecosystems, to funding valuable research. But did you know that giving to charity with CHIMP can teach kids to become better athletes as well as model members of the community?

That’s the goal of Play Better, a program that infuses the game of soccer with values that produce better players and exceptional citizens. And no one is playing better than North Shore Girls Soccer Club, a soccer organization in Metro Vancouver with over 3,500 players. NSGSC teams choose a charity and then set skills goals –  like 100 passes during a game. Parents reward their kids with small donations when those goals are achieved. At the end of the season, the aggregated donations are sent to the chosen charity. The charitable goal combined with skills goals provide positive motivation for players to perform at a high level as a team, rather than as individuals. Even though NSGSC is just getting started with Play Better, they’ve already raised over $25,000. It’s a stark demonstration of the power of collective cooperation.

The level of participation in the soccer club is another reminder of the effectiveness of Play Better. According to Play Better founder Willie Cromack, “There’s a huge gap in the development of soccer players at the grassroots level in our country. Not only from a technical development stance, but kids also aren’t taking away the values that sport often preaches.” Willie has years of experience coaching soccer at all levels and started Play Better to combat the problems that he sees every day. “Kids are quitting sport in droves because they are stressed out. There’s too much sideline pressure to perform at a young age,” says Willie. “Kids end up not having fun anymore. That’s a problem for our nation’s health and wellness.” NSGSC is experiencing none of the enrolment drop that some soccer leagues have noted, and that’s largely because of the success of Play Better.

Play Better organizer Greg Sawers says, “it’s catching on because parents are seeing their kids learning and growing. Not only at the sport, but more importantly as young adults in the world.” It also helps that Play Better is endorsed by Canadian national soccer star Janine Beckie. Over forty teams are playing better at the time of writing, with more and more being onboarded as teams learn about the program.

Youth sports are a valuable tool in the development of a responsible and well-rounded next generation, and there is plenty of research to back it up. This study cites health and community benefits as major factors in getting kids into sports, in spite of the some of the drawbacks, like overemphasis on winning. Play Better’s unique idea takes the emphasis off of victory and places it on teamwork, sharing and learning. We’ve also learned from UBC researchers Dr. Elizabeth Dunn and Ashley Whillans that giving to charity can boost happiness and reduce stress, making the game of footy even more fun.

Play Better really does help kids to play the game of the soccer better, and grow up to be better adults. For more information, check out the Play Better website, or go see Willie and Greg at a TSS FC Rovers game.

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