The Chicago Fire Foundation operates a first-of-its-kind program called P.L.A.Y.S., an acronym for Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth, Soccer. The initiative, which serves Black and Brown at-risk youth, uses soccer to teach social and emotional learning. Students then apply these traits to academics for continued educational success, all within a safe and inclusive environment in which to play soccer.
The Foundation, established in 1998, believes it is crucial that students have access to resources early in education that prepare them for success, increasing their likelihood of completing high school and improving their greater life chances.
P.L.A.Y.S. has seen more than 200,000 hours of soccer played by more than 4,000 youth throughout underserved neighborhoods in Chicago. The program runs for 10 weeks, five out-of-school hours per week during the fall and spring seasons. Teachers from each of the 40 participating schools are involved as program coaches.
Curriculum includes a lesson each week, focused on educational and life skills topics with corresponding soccer drills reinforcing weekly themes. For example, equality is paired with drills to highlight communication and teamwork, reiterating it doesn’t matter what you look like when you play, we are one team.
To ensure the program’s continued success, online resources were added for teachers and students. These include videos reinforcing the curriculum from Chicago Fire players teaching sportsmanship, sharing life experiences and demonstrating soccer drills. The videos also include virtual teacher training and webinars evoking feelings of community and family engagement. This ensures a holistic approach to the program model and extending education beyond the school day.
$1,000: Pays for bus transportation for one participating P.L.A.Y.S. Program school for an entire season
$10,000: Covers training and development for all P.L.A.Y.S. Program coaches as well as the curriculum log book for all 1000 student participants for an entire season
Contact: Chicago Fire Foundation, 1 N. Dearborn, Ste. 1300, 872.710.0740, chicagofirefc.com/foundation
By the Numbers: Chicago Fire Foundation
- Serves CPS students across the most at- risk areas in the city with nearly 60% of students living in the top 20 most violent neighborhoods in Chicago.
- More than 200,000 hours of soccer played by more than 400,000 youth throughout underserved neighborhoods in Chicago.