A Call to Address Youth Isolation During the COVID-19 Crisis

Photo credit: Kelly McCann for Soccer Without Borders

The sport-based youth development (SBYD) community emphasizes the need to support community building and preservation of connections between coach-mentors and youth during the pandemic.

Over one billion young people are currently experiencing a disruption in their ability to go to school and participate in extracurricular activities. This crisis will not only interrupt classroom learning, but will also create a sense of isolation that will spread more widely and quickly than the pandemic itself.

We are direct-service providers who serve young people throughout the year. We are coaches, educators, mentors, connectors, and community leaders. We are the people that kids go to when they need help. Many of the young people we serve live in family and community circumstances that are most vulnerable: they lack access to steady internet and technology, they lack financial security for unexpected expenses, they lack affordable and accessible healthcare, and they have few options to proactively minimize the economic and health risks of this pandemic. Many of the young people we serve were already at risk of isolation by language, culture, and socio-economic status.

During this uncertain time, difficult decisions need to be made about allocation of resources. We are already seeing a response targeting specific sectors, organizations, and businesses for support and relief. Too often, the voices of young people are not loud enough to be heard. Their losses aren’t easily quantified, and their unmet needs are invisible to the public eye. We see these needs every day. We have worked for years to meet these needs and we know well the consequences if these needs are overlooked.

BELONGING IS A BASIC HUMAN NEED. This is true for everyone, but it is especially true of our young people, who are still developing the mental resiliency skills they need to process the massive changes going on around us. The loss of this basic human need can trigger an avalanche of undesirable consequences and lead youth down a path of disengagement and increased risk.

CREATING BELONGING IS OUR CORE PRODUCT. Belonging nourishes like food, it protects like Vitamin C, it washes away harm like soap, and it strengthens resiliency in a way that none of those other things can.

School closures around the world have not stopped us from strengthening bonds of belonging every day. We are checking in, we are moving content online, we are getting kids connected, and we are delivering soccer balls, boxed lunches, and other resources. We are working hard to stay connected with the youth we serve and building new forms of virtual engagement to keep youth connected and engaged mentally and physically. We are making sure that each and every young person we serve knows that they are not alone, and they will not be forgotten.

We are direct service providers who do not fall under the protections of unions, or necessarily on the payrolls of the school systems where we operate. Yet for hundreds of thousands of young people, we are the first-responders to their needs.

CALL FOR SUPPORT. As emergency and resiliency funding is mobilized by governments, philanthropy, and the private sector, we implore you to name belonging as a basic human need, and social isolation — not simply interrupted classroom learning — among the highest risks for young people. Kids are out of school, and out-of-school time service providers are ready to fight this isolation with belonging. We can ensure that the next generation knows that we have their backs, today, tomorrow, and as long as it takes.

We are a community of youth-serving organizations using soccer as our vehicle for youth engagement. Soccer is a universally accessible sport in which youth can participate regardless of age, physical characteristics, or economic status. Its global popularity makes it well-suited to urban settings with high immigrant populations, and its inclusive, team-based design creates long-lasting connections between coach-mentors and teammates. We encourage leaders and coalitions from other sports to join us in this effort, and raise our collective voices to advocate for how sport creates belonging in a time of Covid-19. Join us by adding your name in support here.


Soccer Without Borders & America SCORES

Together with Boston SCORES, DC SCORES, The US Soccer Foundation, Pure Game, Starfinder Foundation, Beyond Soccer Lawrence, Project Goal, Soccer in the Streets, South Bronx United, The Sanneh Foundation, Active Children Portland, America SCORES New York, America SCORES Bay Area, America SCORES Chicago, America SCORES Cleveland, America SCORES Los Angeles, America SCORES Milwaukee, America SCORES Seattle, Better Family Life, Soccer Without Borders Boston, Soccer Without Borders Colorado, Soccer Without Borders Maryland, Soccer Without Borders Oakland, Soccer Without Borders Seattle, Open Goal Project, Fugees Family, Algonquin Sports 4 Kids, Street Soccer USA

Supporting signatories,

Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA & Laureus Global, Women’s Sports Foundation, AFDP Global, Girls on the Run- DC, Milwaukee Youth Sports Alliance, Canada SCORES, The First Tee of Greater Washington, DC, PeacePlayers, Youth Sports Collaborative Network, Fight for Children, South End Soccer, Equality League, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, PowerPlay NYC, WeCoach, LACES, Up2Us Sports, Beyond Sport, Leveling the Playing Field, Inc, streetfootballworld USA, Lost Boyz Inc., Lions Raw, Doc Wayne Youth Services, Girls on the Run Atlanta, Run4Fun, Inc., Capital for Children, Philly Girls in Motion, Sacred Sports Foundation Inc., KABOOM!, Coaches Across Continents, Oakland Lacrosse Club, Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activity League, San Francisco Black Dragons, Pumas Soccer Teams, J. Ferreira Soccer, Delta Sculling Center, Export-Strength Creative, The Sparkle Effect, Coaching Corps, Giants Community Fund & Junior Giants, Skate Like A Girl, FC ROYALE, Alexandria Soccer Association, 10:12 Sports, Football United Australia & Myanmar, City Surf Project, United Kidz Soccer Development, The Schneeman Family, Afterschool Alliance, Seattle United, The Cycle Effect, Sports for All- India, SOS Outreach, STX Youth Soccer, UPower, Her Next Play, Lean In Coaching, Reclaim Childhood, Chicago Run, Good Sports, Girls in the Game, Women In Soccer, Element Market Research, Playworks, Chattanooga Football Club Foundation, Rockville Baseball Association, George Washington Sports Philanthropy Certificate Program, Israel Lacrosse Association, Snap Soccer, United States Indoor Sports Association, Figure Skating in Harlem, Border Youth Tennis Exchange, RC Celta Academy PA, Networks Academy