Soccer for Success Impact Study_Issue Brief

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  • Independent Evaluation

    of Soccer for Success

    Powered by the Social Innovation Fund

  • Independent Evaluation of Soccer for Success

    Evaluation Overview

    Soccer for Success Between 1980 and 2008, rates of obesity among American children nearly tripled. While national trends have begun to plateau, certain subgroups continue to experience increases in childhood obesity, specifically for children living below the federal poverty level. Physical activity has been proposed and promoted as a key factor in the fight against childhood obesity. The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity declared that youth participation in physical activity is a critical national priority. In addition to regular physical activity, efforts to teach healthy eating habits are needed. Despite this emphasis in recent years, these patterns remain problematic, especially amongst youth in underserved communities who lack access to, and knowledge of healthy nutrition. In response to this crisis, the U.S. Soccer Foundation created Soccer for Success - an afterschool soccer program designed to combat childrens health issues in urban, underserved areas by focusing on continuous physical activity, integrated nutrition education, positive coach mentorship, and family and community engagement. Approximately 25,000 children in over 30 different cities across the United States are enrolled in the program. The Foundation provides grants to community organizations in each city, who in turn, operate the program. These groups follow a curriculum for 24 weeks during the academic year. Each week includes three days of 75-90 minute sessions to ensure participants receive the suggested 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, as recommended by the CDC. The program is at no cost to the children that participate.

    The results of an independent evaluation of Soccer for Success, conducted by Healthy Networks Design & Research, show that children enrolled in the U.S. Soccer Foundations Soccer for Success program experience significant health improvements. Since the inception of Soccer for Success, evaluation has been a core component of the programs development. The U.S. Soccer Foundation and the organizations operating the program have evaluated approximately 35% of participants each season. Internal findings have been impactful, with 75-80% of participating children experiencing improved Body Mass Index (BMI) percentiles, waist circumference size, and aerobic capacity. For children entering the program categorized as overweight or obese, data show that health improvements are even more significant. Despite these compelling figures, an independent evaluation had not been used to accompany, and essentially validate, these internal findings until now. This study was made possible, thanks to support from the Social Innovation Fund.

    Independent Evaluation of Soccer for Success

    This independent evaluation of the Soccer for Success

    program authenticates the positive influence physical activity

    and health education can have on at-risk youth. To show our

    programs efficacy is both assuring and motivating. We are

    proud to see our mission at work, as we continue to use soccer

    as a vehicle to improve health and social outcomes among

    children in underserved areas.

    Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO U.S. Soccer Foundation

  • Methodology Researchers from Healthy Networks Design & Research completed a one year quasi-experimental study of the Soccer for Success program during the 2012-2013 academic year. Children from Buffalo, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Seattle were selected to participate. Two groups were created: children enrolled in Soccer for Success (treatment) and children enrolled in other non-athletic, non-nutrition-based afterschool programming with similar schedules to Soccer for Success (control). To ensure a strong comparison, children in the groups were selected from the same communities, ensuring similar demographic characteristics. Additionally, baseline analyses showed no differences between the two groups, as measured by BMI percentile, aerobic capacity (PACER test), and waist circumference size. Through these measurements, the study compared the difference in health change throughout the academic year between children participating in Soccer for Success and those who were not.


    The CDC assigns children into different categories based on BMI percentiles: obese, overweight, normal, and underweight. Soccer for Success participants transitioned to healthier categories in a statistically significant manner (p < .001; r = -.11) over the course of the study. Children in the control group did not improve (p = .882). The study also looked at the exact change among BMI percentiles scores. Children enrolled in Soccer for Success experienced a decrease in BMI percentile scores of 2.57 more points than children in the control group (p = .001; partial 2

    = .009).

    Children enrolled in Soccer for Success showed a significant decrease in waist circumference size over the course of the study, while control group children saw an increase in waist circumference size (p = .001; partial 2 = .010).

    Using the PACER test, a childs aerobic capacity can be calculated based on the number of completed 20-meter laps during a set amount of time. Children enrolled in Soccer for Success completed 3.8 more laps than children in the control group (p = .001; partial 2

    = .020).

    Independent Evaluation of Soccer for Success

    The study found statistically significantly greater health improvements for children enrolled in Soccer for Success

    The implications of this study are critical.

    The positive health impact of Soccer for Success

    calls for expansion of efficacious, coordinated

    afterschool efforts, such as this program.

    Dr. Danielle Hollar, Lead Researcher Healthy Networks Design & Research

    Implications Programs such as Soccer for Success are proven and effective tools to combat childhood obesity in under-served areas across the United States. Based on the results outlined above, the call to replicate, expand, and grow this program is clear.

  • Independent Evaluation of Soccer for Success

    About the U.S. Soccer Foundation The U.S. Soccer Foundation was established in 1994 and serves as the major charitable arm of soccer in the United States. The Foundation is a leader in sports-based youth development, using soccer as a vehicle for social change among youth in urban areas. The Foundation has awarded over $100 million in financial support to soccer organizations and field-building initiatives nationwide. The mission of the U.S. Soccer Foundation is to enhance, assist and grow the sport of soccer in the United States, with a special emphasis on underserved communities. By supporting the development of places to play, places to grow, and places to learn, the Foundations goal is to provide easy and affordable access to quality soccer programs that support physical and personal development.

    About HNDR Healthy Networks Design & Research, Inc. (HNDR) is a nonprofit organization that assists organizations with health-related project development, implementation, evaluation, and research functions to improve the health of communities they serve. Activities led by HNDR have been funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Walmart Foundation, NRPA, and The World Bank.

    Independent Evaluation of Soccer for Success

    Soccer for Success Facts

    About the Social Innovation Fund This report is based upon work supported by the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) is a program of the Corporation for national and Community Service (CNCS). The Social Innovation Fund combines public and private resources to grow the impact of innovative, community-based solutions that have compelling evidence of improving the lives of people in low-income communities through the United States.

    U.S. Soccer Foundation 1211 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20036


    Over 30


    Children Served

    Coach Mentors


    $5.7M Invested

    When Soccer for Success began in 2009, the program served less than 2,000 children in 3 different cities. Since the programs inception, the U.S. Soccer Foundation continues to increase enrollment and geographic reach. Currently, Soccer for Success operates in over 30 cities across the country:



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