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St. Peter’s Health Partners empowers youths through soccer

Physical inactivity in adolescents is a core health concern. Occurrence of certain chronic diseases, obesity and premature mortality are shown to decline with regular physical activity. Additionally, it is thought that children who are engaged in a community sport show improved cognitive development and social integration with peers. In 2018, St. Peter’s Health Partners and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Capital Area began the Soccer for Success program as a way to introduce underserved youth to soccer and integrate healthy lifestyle skills.

In addition to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Capital Area, SPHP partnered with local school districts and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. While learning the fundamentals of soccer, participants are taught how to eat right and stay healthy, and gain important decision-making and relationship skills from their interactions with coach-mentors and peers. Soccer for Success coaches help the students build confidence and emphasize the value of hard work, teamwork and persistence in achieving personal goals. Coach-mentors also meet with participants’ families regularly to educate parents and guardians about embracing an active and healthy lifestyle and supporting their child’s personal fitness and emotional growth.

Among Soccer for Success participants, 88% maintained or decreased their personal body mass index, 72% increased their aerobic capacity and 86% stayed away from anti-social behavior. A planned expansion of the program to include middle schools will allow even more vulnerable youths to learn these valuable skills and life lessons.

For more information, contact Melissa Zapotocki, director, community health and well-being, at (518) 525-6640 or melissa.zapotocki@sphp.com.