In a city obsessed with the Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics, we know that sports often serve as a means to bring people together. On a brisk fall day in East Boston, with the skyline stunningly clear across the harbor, corporate employees from a downtown financial firm, who sported cleats instead of loafers, played soccer with East Boston elementary and middle school students. As families from the community cheered the participants on, this gathering evidenced that regardless of whether sports are played at the national level or within a small local park, becoming involved with a sports team, league, or program, can help build community through a common spirit and a unified identity.
Organized through America SCORES Boston, a youth development after-school program that uses soccer, creative writing, and service-learning to inspire healthy lifestyles, leadership, and lifelong learning, the 2nd Annual Fall Field Day at LoPresti Park in East Boston was once again a great opportunity to bring together adult volunteers with SCORES poet-athletes. With all players enthusiastically chanting their team names and waving team posters, shouts for “Eye of the Tiger”, “Cheetahs”, and “U.S.A” signaled that each squad, consisting of elementary and middle school students from the Donald McKay K-8 School and employees from Thomson Reuters, was excited to play soccer and celebrate the SCORES program within the East Boston community. As is usual with SCORES poet-athletes, the games were competitive, passionate, and also displayed a high level of sportsmanship.
By participating on intergenerational teams, students were exposed to adult role models and shown support from a major corporation within Boston’s professional community. Although employees were not assigned a specific mentorship position, teaching moments arose within the soccer matches. One employee remarked, “At first, some of the boys weren’t really passing to the girls. We had a short team meeting to talk about it and they’ve been much better about it after that.” These social lessons and moments of personal growth that occur through team-based athletic activities serve as the foundation for the SCORES after-school program, which reaches 1,500 students in 21 Boston public schools annually.
For Thomson Reuters’ employees, the afternoon offered the chance to escape the office for an afternoon and play soccer, meet fellow co-workers, and most importantly, connect with Boston youth. In addition, as a number of the Thomson Reuters’ volunteers participated in the 2010 SCORES Cup–a corporate soccer tournament fundraiser for America SCORES Boston held in June at Gillette Stadium–the Fall Field Day provided these donors the ability to witness the SCORES program in action and directly participate with the students they support. As a visiting board member stated, “This is the payoff for the work you do.” Through the interaction of these two major components of the America SCORES organization, the donors and the poet-athletes, the entire process of youth development and community engagement which the program seeks to generate becomes interconnected at the most direct level.
At the conclusion of the event, Thomson Reuters employees served food and snacks for participants and their families, as well as presented a certificate and soccer ball to each McKay student, who all accepted the generous gifts with wide smiles. Afterwards, in a call and response format, two McKay students performed their original poetry to an attentive crowd of onlookers, leaving them silently contemplating the daily experiences of Boston’s inner-city youth:
I wish we lived in a world of kindness
I remember when my friends called a boy ‘Black’
I wish we lived in a world of peace and love
I remember when I left my country in Brazil
I wish there was no distance between families”
While this poem reflects the insight poet-athletes gain while participating in the SCORES program, it also echoes the need for human connection exemplified by the Fall Field Day event. As the representative from Thomson Reuters who helped coordinate the event commented, “We’ve sort of ‘adopted’ the McKay kids because we like to feel that connection.” This connection extends far beyond the field at LoPresti Park. It includes the critical influence of adult role models for children’s healthy development, the impact of companies investing within their communities, and the unified effort to help improve the lives of Boston’s youth. And while achieving this may not be a walk in the park; a quick soccer tournament there is definitely a good start.