A new collaborative effort is working to bring a love of soccer to a group of local youth who, in the past, may not have considered the sport as an option.
“After realizing that elementary-aged girls are underrepresented in the Arlington soccer recreation program, we wanted to find a way to encourage them to try the sport,” said Caitlin Verdu, the 4-H agent for Arlington County.
The result was “Girls with Goals,” a collaboration between 4-H, Arlington Soccer Association and Campbell Elementary School’s extended-day program.
The inaugural six-week effort is in the wrapping-up stage. It has offered participating youth a no-cost after-school club, and plans are to expand the initiative to other Title 1 schools across Arlington.
“Even if we they do not continue with soccer, we believe there is great value in learning how to play on a team, getting physical activity and trying something new,” Verdu said. She noted that each session includes 4-H character-building activities that are designed to reinforce the principles of fairness and sportsmanship.
(Among the team-building exercises: The coach had youth line up in order of their birthdays – only, they weren’t able to tell one another what their birthdays were, but had to work out ways to communicate in non-verbal fashion.)
Melissa Riemer, director of operations for the Arlington Soccer Association, agreed that the partnership is worthy of continuation and expansion.
“We are committed to supporting the positive development of youth throughout Arlington County, and Girls with Goals embodies our continued efforts to finding ways to reach the community,” she said.
Arlington 4-H is a part of Virginia Cooperative Extension, overseen by Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.