Through an inspiring use of soccer, poetry and service learning, America SCORES provides a unique platform to engage and support under-resourced communities across the country. The organization, founded in '94 in DC, and based in N.Y., will be honored as the Sports Business Journal’s Celebration of Service Award recipient at the Sports Business Awards on May 18 at the N.Y. Marriott Marquis. Since '17, SBJ has recognized organizations that have led the way in exemplifying how sport is a catalyst for social change and that have demonstrated innovation and provided inspiration through the power of sports. For the first time, the award was open for nominations from the sports business community and we received more than 50 submissions for this year’s award. America SCORES was selected from these nominees by a panel of SBJ judges.
Through youth soccer leagues in 11 cities across the country, America SCORES has challenged inequities faced by at-risk youth and empowered the next generation of leaders. With a commitment to building up a Black-led and female-led network of staff leadership and serving more than 11,000 “poet athletes” from ages 5-18 nationwide in urban communities challenged by poverty and underperforming schools, America SCORES demonstrates the life-changing impact that sport can have. “America SCORES believes that every child deserves equitable access to quality sport experiences,” said Exec Dir ICY JONES. “Through our free school-based youth soccer leagues, we remove barriers to sports participation and fight systemic inequities faced by young people in high-poverty neighborhoods.”
Despite the ongoing pandemic, America SCORES and local leaders worked to train more than 700 coaches over the last year, many of whom are area school teachers and staff doing a second shift in supporting the effort. These leaders equipped participants with the tools for playing on the field and for lessons off of it, from supporting kids experiencing trauma to healing-centered approaches to coaching. These America SCORES coaches also brought that knowledge back to their classrooms, creating a ripple effect benefiting their entire school. Whether writing and performing their own spoken-word poetry in a livestreamed international youth poetry slam (with more than 15,000 poems performed in '21) or collaborating with their teammates on service-learning projects to improve their local communities (with more than 50,000 hours of community service in '21 alone), the youth soccer players discovered how they could use their voices as a force for good.
“Using our unique blend of soccer, arts, and community action, our poet-athletes are inspired to lead healthy lives and have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world,” Jones said. “We believe healthy bodies and healthy minds lead to healthy communities. Thank you for helping to shine a light on our work so that we can in turn refract that light and shine a spotlight on our poet-athletes.”