Elementary students at two local schools are getting their kicks in a soccer program for “at risk” kids, thanks to a partnership between the Arlington Soccer Association (ASA) and the Real Madrid Foundation.
The Real Madrid Social Sport Academy provides after school soccer for more than 150 Arlington Public Schools students. It kicked off last month, and currently runs at Carlin Springs Elementary School and Hoffman-Boston Elementary School.
“Most of these kids are in need of some positive mentoring,” said Bob Bigney with the Arlington Soccer Association. “They would not otherwise get the opportunity to play soccer.”
The participating schools helped ASA identify second through fifth graders who might benefit from such a program, and the students had to get permission from their parents. All of the participants get their own Real Madrid uniforms and meet after school twice each week for practice. The program not only focuses on participation in the sport, but also stresses academic performance.
“To go out to these schools and see these kids with their uniforms on, working with the coaches, it’s really rewarding,” said Bigney. “Some of the kids come from pretty tough home life situations. It’s giving them this opportunity to play soccer, to get some of the lessons that soccer teaches kids, like teamwork and cooperation. We’re very happy with the way that it’s going.”
Next Wednesday (October 31), some special guests from Madrid will be in town to meet the kids involved in the program at Carlin Springs Elementary. Among them is former Real Madrid star Emilio Butragueño.
Arlington is the first place in the United States to be a part of this Real Madrid Foundation program. Plans are in the works to start the academies at schools in other cities across the country, such as Boston and Houston.
ASA would like to expand the program in the spring to involve more local elementary schools, and hopefully add middle and high schools. However, the deal with Real Madrid only provides a certain amount of monetary assistance, so more funding is necessary for expansion. ASA is currently looking for additional sources of funding — such as sponsorship — to grow the program. Individuals or businesses interested in becoming a sponsor for the program can contact Bob Bigney at firstname.lastname@example.org.