Once a week, GVP girls walk over to the Decatur Recreational Center for physical education. PE is a required class for all students and the girls love their time outside of regular classes, off campus and with a new set of teachers.
The classes are taught by staff of Soccer in the Streets, a local non-profit whose mission is to empower Atlanta’s youth through soccer training, character development and employability programs.
Soccer in the streets believes that “everyone should be able to play. No matter who they are. No matter where they live,” and they strive to “level the playing field for all.”
Standing in a wide circle in the gymnasium of the Rec center, the girls listen intently to the instructions of their coaches. In front of each girl, there is a small ball and the goal is for them to kick it in the direction of the large ball in the center of the circle. In turn, each girl has to kick back any soccer ball that comes in her direction. The coach blows the whistle and the excitement begins. This game goes on for a while, students stopping from time to time to remind each other of the rules or occasionally accuse another of disobeying them. It’s all in good fun.
“The spirit of the girls at GVP is one of valiance, curiosity, and bravery,” says Soccer In the Streets Director of Leadership and Outcomes, Chelsea Wood. “I love that they remember the words like Grit and Courage, but my favorite part of the program is watching them live it as they learn, try, and explore the sport. They walk in with their friend groups every week, but we finish the sessions as a unified team cheering each other on! This may be one of the most competitive groups I have ever coached! I can only smile thinking about the impact each one will continue to have in the school and their communities. The power of sport is alive and thriving in these girls, and we are so incredibly excited for the future.”
After soccer practice is over the coaches guide the girls through more games and exercises till they are spent. Then it’s time for them to grab their bags and get onto the school buses for their ride home.