Building a Youth Soccer Ecosystem
Rapids Youth Soccer is a dynamic, unique, and powerful sports ecosystem in which the Rapids Youth Soccer Outreach programming is fortunate to be a part of.
The fact is, the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Outreach team works alongside arguably one of the most qualified and experienced technical coaching staffs in the country, teaching soccer to kids from the ages of 3-18 of all ability levels and backgrounds.
How does this complement Outreach work?
Through our Zarlengo scholarship program, we provide financial and academic support to a small, carefully selected group of Latino youth so that they too can receive this technical coaching, even though they couldn’t otherwise afford it. Made possible by the Alfred Zarlengo Estate, in addition to these scholarships, our Outreach team is also able to run free or highly subsidized soccer clinics and leagues in underserved communities – a massive boost to kids and families who love soccer, but don’t necessary have the means to join a technical team.
Take, as another example, our partnership with the US Soccer Foundation, one of the leading sport-for-development organizations in the world. Using their well-designed Soccer for Success curriculum, we provide free after-school programming to over 4,000 youth each year, teaching participants nutritional education and tracking improvements in body mass index and aerobic capacity. As one of the largest implementers of Soccer for Success in the country, the US Soccer Foundation seeks input from Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer as we drive curriculum upgrades and deliver high-volume programming. Having their team as part of our sports ecosystem has other benefits too – they provide a matching grant each year to help fund Soccer for Success.
When we look even further outside our own office, the ecosystem blossoms into something incredibly unique and powerful. As the official youth club of the Colorado Rapids MLS team, our club operates alongside one of the most exciting teams in the league. After a few frustrating seasons, these guys have made a huge turnaround and leapt to the top of the standings, bolstered by some new signings and the coming to fruition of Pablo’s Pedagogy (mostly visible when he’s commanding the sideline at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – well worth the ticket price alone). This partnership gives us, the Rapids Youth Club, a set of assets and brand unlike any other club in Colorado, and sets us apart from nearly all other youth clubs across the country.
So as we continue to push to provide free soccer opportunities for kids, and as we fund raise to keep our programming sustainable into the next year, as our Technical coaches strive to implement the Rapids Way, I feel fortunate to play my part in this club. This is the type of environment where we can do truly special things together, either as a parent, player, or coach – whether you’re involved on a Technical Team or an Outreach program or a Rapids fan. This is the type of sports ecosystem that we should be thankful to be a part of. Our Outreach staff certainly appreciates being able to work at both the grassroot level and the big picture level, where we fit right into the ecosystem alongside Jermaine, Tim and Pablo.