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Thursday, June 12, 2014

A soccer story: 20 years ago, the World Cup came to DC and SCORES was born

It's a good thing Amy's a soccer junkie,
because in 2010 she juggled a ball for two
straight days during our Kick, Click, &
SCORE! fundraiser.
Written by Amy Nakamoto
Executive Director

I am a soccer junkie.

I follow the youth game, the college game, and domestic and international leagues. I am an avid Arsenal fan. I even named my dog after Thierry Henry (obviously, pre-Red Bulls and Barca days).

In college, in a public speaking class, I debated the merits of ending the World Cup on penalty kicks; I cried tears of joy at the women's game truly hitting the world stage in 1999; and in 2002, I woke up for every live game being shown in Japan and Korea.

I grew up with the game. The VYS (VA) Fireballs were my first team. We had red jerseys, a parent-coach, and we were a collection of rag-tag 7-year-old boys and girls excited to run around chasing a ball. I still play today, still excited and still chasing - slowly.

As the World Cup welcomes us all again to its magic, I have a different appreciation for the beautiful game. Twenty years ago, when the U.S. played host, the global event had a lasting effect on Washington, DC. Out of the revenues brought into the country and specifically the DC region, a unique program was born.


Julie Kennedy, the founder of SCORES!
In 1994, Julie Kennedy, a young and passionate teacher, decided to use the game of soccer to connect with her students after school. It was an introduction to the simple, yet dynamic sport, and it was an experience that those and thousands of students that followed would never forget.

Not only did Ms. Kennedy teach soccer, but she combined it with a classroom element, poetry, and then later group-based service-learning. She bonded with her students as their coach and they formed deeper connections with each other and their school as the representative soccer and poetry team.

This seedling of an idea and after-school initiative blew up on the heels of the '94 World Cup. Early dollars were contributed to help launch DC SCORES more formally, and the brand-new D.C. United team was on the ground floor making sure that hundreds of students in low-income communities had a way to play the game.

Quickly and not surprisingly, school districts from around the country wanted a piece of this new magic - an after-school program that brought kids together, as a team, in the classroom, on the field, on the stage, and in the community.

America SCORES was born.

'90s soccer stars support SCORES!
What keeps me a soccer junkie is actually not Arsenal, or the expanding MLS, or the amazing U.S. women who have dominated on an international stage. It's the chance to see the game through the eyes of an 8-year-old in DC SCORES every day. Without SCORES, our students wouldn't have their "Fireballs,” they wouldn't have their teacher-coach, they wouldn't feel the power of scoring their first goal, or the heartbreak of their first defeat. Without SCORES, our students wouldn't push their classmates or opponents in supportive ways, celebrate team goals, and huddle to set some more.

The World Cup is impressive, moving, and bigger than the game of soccer. Cultures colliding, cheering, jeering, crying, laughing, and invested in something larger than life. I will always know the Cup as the catalyst for DC SCORES and America SCORES.

And for that, the world's most popular game with meaning and metaphors abound will always represent OPPORTUNITY and TEAM and HEART for the thousands of students from low-income communities in SCORES.

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