Soccer for Success is the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s free soccer-based afterschool program that uses soccer as a tool to address children’s health issues and juvenile delinquency, while promoting healthy lifestyles in urban underserved communities.

What started as a small program serving 2,000 children in three cities, has grown to over 55,000 children in over 30 cities today. Combining physical activity, nutrition education, mentorship, and family engagement, Soccer for Success has transformed underserved communities nationwide.

The Rapids Youth Club implements one of the largest Soccer for Success programs in the country, serving 4,000 youth each year in the Denver metro area.  Our staff works closely with the US Soccer Foundation as we drive program and curriculum innovation to best serve the Denver community.

Due to childhood obesity, for the first time in 200 years, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life spans than their parents[i]. While Colorado is known as the leanest states for adults, it has the second-fastest rate of increase in childhood obesity in the nation[ii]. Colorado children living in poverty are more than three times as likely to be overweight than children in higher-income families.  To address this issue, we work only in schools with high rates of free and reduced lunches, where participants usually do not have opportunities to play organized sports, and we provide Soccer for Success coaches with a blueprint for mentorship.  The coach/player relationships, as well as the relationships that the young people form with their teammates, are integral to participants’ development, and a key part of addressing childhood obesity and nutritional education.

[i]  –   “Childhood Obesity Is Threatening Our Future.” Denver Health. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

[ii]  – “Childhood Obesity in Colorado: A Growing Problem.” Colorado Children’s Campaign, 1 July 2007. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

Our goals for the 2016-2017 programming year are the following:

  • Provide Soccer for Success programming for over 4,000 unique participants in grades K-8 across the Fall, Spring and Summer seasons.
  • Train over 200 coach-mentors to deliver the Soccer for Success curriculum.
  • Collect pre- and post- data (BMI and PACER test results) for a minimum of 20% of participants.
  • Track attendance for each participant on Salesforce.
  • Comply with standards of program delivery as required by the US Soccer Foundation.

As an additional goal for the 2016-2017 programming year, we are trialing ways to improve our Family Engagement component.  In the Summer of 2016, we worked with representatives from a leading model of social work known as Transition to Success, exploring how to better integrate their approach into our programming.    We are excited about being at the forefront of sport-for-development innovation… stay tuned for how this will impact our program moving forward.

News and Upcoming Events

See the Soccer for Success Statistics

Since 2012, 6,499 students have registered to participate in Soccer for Success. Schools participating in the Soccer for Success program serve some of the most economically and academically challenged children in the state; 92% of children enrolled in Soccer for Success are eligible for free or reduced lunch. From 2012-2015, of families who self-identified (15% did not self-identify), 63% identified as Latino, 11% as African-American, 5% as Caucasian, and 6% as Multi-ethnic or other.

Free/Reduced Lunch
  • Physical Activity

    Children participate in 90 minute sessions at least three days a week to ensure they receive the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise.

  • Nutrtion

    Staff and coaches deliver education activities where children are taught the basics of nutrition, the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices, and the importance of maintaining healthy eating habits.

  • Mentorship

    Coaches serve as mentors and stress the importance of excelling in school while promoting the values of teamwork, leadership, discipline, and respect.

  • Family Engagement

    We strive to help parents and families apply the program’s teachings at home. We give families information on nutrition, health, and public services to aide them in their pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

Physical Activity

Children participate in 90-minute sessions three times per week for twelve weeks in the fall and twelve weeks in the spring. Coaches follow the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s evidence-based curriculum which includes activities to keep the children moderately to vigorously active for at least 60 minutes during practice, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control. The soccer sills component of the curriculum has been built in line with the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Coaching Curriculum.

Nutrition Education

Nutrition education is integrated into every practice. Each week of the curriculum has a different nutrition theme, including the five food groups, beverages and sleep. Children are taught the basics of nutrition and the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices and maintaining healthy eating habits. The program includes three different curricula designed for each age group: kinder to second grade, third to fifth grade and sixth to eighth grade in order to ensure that the nutrition and soccer information being taught is developmentally appropriate. The Soccer for Success nutrition education component was built in line with the CDC’s healthy eating curriculum and emphasizes MyPlate.


Each site is staffed by caring coaches who are invested in the successful development of each child.  Over 60% of coaches in the program are either school employees or parents of children in the program. Focusing recruitment on these groups has allowed for the hiring of coach-mentors who already have existing connections with the children and the community. These coaches also tend to have a strong background in youth development. The 15:1 child to coach ratio allows coach-mentors to connect with each child and emphasize the importance of healthy living.

Family Engagement

Family engagement in the program is necessary for real change in these communities.  Each season, participants and their families have the opportunity to attend the Soccer for Success Jamboree, held in conjunction with 9Health Fair and other partners, to see their children compete against other schools and learn more about Soccer for Success’ community health partners. These community events bring together hundreds of participants from different sites for a soccer festival.

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For Each Child

Exercise.  Education.  Consistency.  Structure.  Equipment.  Safe Space.  Mentorship.  Soccer.  Fun.

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  • Set Up

    Coach arrives early to set up the field for practice.

  • Warm-Up

    During the 5-10 minute opening circle, coach-mentors check-in with each player and introduce the nutrition theme and the soccer skill for the day.

  • Soccer Activity 1

    Teaches players a specific soccer skill in a small-sided game.

  • Soccer Activity 2

    Allows players to use that soccer skill practiced in the first game in a larger game-like setting.

  • Scrimmage

    After at least two soccer activities, children have the opportunity to scrimmage in small-sided games.

  • Cool Down

    This activity is used to bring players back together in a fun way to end the practice on a positive note.

  • Closing Circle

    During this time, coach-mentors review the nutrition theme and soccer skill of the day and check-in with each player.

  • Staff Debrief

    This step is encouraged so that coaches at a site can regroup after practice, get advice and make a plan for the next day.


Soccer for Success has an annual budget of approximately $1 million.  Financial support comes from generous foundations and donors. The majority of our funding currently comes from the U.S. Soccer Foundation with a few other major donors including the Colorado Health Foundation, the Daniel’s Fund and the Piton Foundation.

We have a goal of raising $500,000 next fiscal year starting in August 2016 through a combination of grants, sponsorships, and individual giving.  This will enable us to fully match the grant from the US Soccer Foundation for the 2016-2017 programming year.

Matching Funds $1,054,370

Total Funds – $2,108,740

Ready to Get Involved?

Let us know how you want to help support Denver kids. Donate, volunteer, coach, or sponsor.


One of the main results of Soccer for Success programming is a reduction in childhood obesity in its participants through physical activity and healthy living education.  To measure this impact, CRYSC captures pre- and post- curriculum delivery statistics on key indicators from a minimum sample of 20% of all registered participants.

At the beginning and end of each season, participants’ Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated. BMI percentile is a proxy for human body fat and is used to categorize participants as underweight, normal, overweight or obese as suggested by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Participants’ aerobic capacity is also measured through the administration of a Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER), a multi-stage fitness test adapted from the 20-meter shuttle run test.

The results are impressive, demonstrating that a well-designed sport-based curriculum like Soccer for Success can have real, measurable positive impacts on youth participants.

Of active participants since fall 2012 who were given both the pre- and post-season tests:
  • 71% improved (52%) or maintained (19%) their BMI percentile (sample = 1,658)
  • 72% improved (66% ) or maintained (7%) their aerobic capacity based on the PACER test (sample = 1,693)
  • 63% decreased (46%) or maintained (17%) their waist circumference size (sample = 1,782)
  • 94% improved (20%) or maintained (74%) their level of health risk
Of active participants since fall 2012 who were given both pre- and post-season test and categorized at the beginning of a season as overweight or obese:
  • 92% have improved (47%) or maintained (45%) their BMI percentile (sample = 573)
  • 68% decreased (49%) or maintained (19%) their waist circumference size (sample = 574)
  • 70% maintained or improved their aerobic capacity based on the PACER test (sample = 532)
Of active participants since fall 2012 who were given both pre- and post-season and were categorized as having high or some health risk:
  • 95% improved (37%) and maintained (58%) their level of health (sample = 326)
  • 65% improved (47%) or maintained (18%) their BMI percentile (sample = 212)
  • 70% increased (67%) or maintained (3%) their aerobic capacity based on the PACER test (sample = 221)
  • 64% decreased (47%) or maintained (17%) their waist circumference (sample = 224)

Goal Setting

A number of goals are accomplished throughout each Soccer for Success  season:

  • The program reduces childhood obesity in its participants through physical activity and healthy living education.
  • Children are engaged in a youth development program during the dangerous after-school hours where they learn a variety of life skills and build self-confidence.
  • Children have a trained, caring mentor who can serve as a positive role model.
  • Children are provided access to sport in areas where there is little to none.
  • Families and communities are engaged to reinforce healthy choices.

We hold our program staff and coaches to high standards of quality as we continue to grow throughout Denver.  Quality control is an essential part of achieving our goals.

Build Capacity

Build capacity to serve 4,005 children by spring 2016

BMI Percentile

85% of participants who are categorized as overweight or obese improve or maintain their BMI percentile each season.

Aerobic Capacity

87% of participants who were categorized as having high or some health risks improve or maintain their aerobic capacity each season.

Waist Circumference

65% of participants who are categorized as overweight or obese improve or maintain their waist circumference seize each season.

Retention Rates

65% in-season retention rate each season.

How to Get Involved

Our programs survive on individual, foundation, and grant support. Consider providing a monetary donation to the Rapids Youth Soccer outreach effort.

We’re always looking for volunteers!  We invite you to come see our work in person – after school or at one of the community events we host throughout the year.  Fill out the contact information form on this site to get in touch.

We recruit interested people to coach for Soccer for Success.  Coaches typically have a background working with youth and are interested in helping out in their communities.  No soccer experience necessary (but it’s helpful!)  Trainings are held before the start of each season, usually in February, June and August.  Fill out the contact information form on this site to get in touch and let us know if you’re interested.

We offer a unique sponsorship opportunity – access to over 4,000 youth and their families from underserved communities around Denver, through a variety of channels including website advertising, social media, event promotions and equipment branding.  Send an email to [email protected] to start a conversation.

The Outreach Council is a group of trusted stakeholders who bring additional value to our work in a variety of ways.  The commitment is flexible and provides unique insight into our programming decisions, future plans and fundraising strategies for you to offer your advice and support.

Looking to host your own fundraiser?  Run a race, host a party, direct a soccer tournament, or anything really!  Check out for an easy, turnkey approach you can use to activate your own network.

Contact Us

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Soccer for Success Partners

Coming Soon!