Free soccer programs bring fun and fitness to Miami-Dade parks – Miami Herald

At Charles Hadley Park in Miami, there are two little girls each named Brielle who both love soccer.

Four-year-old Brielle Kinsey wouldn’t eat oranges. But after learning about nutrition from her coach-mentor, her grandmother said, she’s been a lot more open to trying new things.

“Who knows, she might even eat some green beans,” Tamara Kinsey laughed.

Five-year-old Brielle Matheis knew she wanted to play soccer after seeing it on television — and quitting dance.

Now her mother, Valdrina Matheis, said there’s no day she doesn’t want to play.

“As long as she’s kicking, she’s fine,” she said.

Both girls are in Soccer for Success, a no-cost after-school program encouraging physical activity and nutrition education. It has over 400 program sites around the U.S, and now it’s in Miami-Dade County.

The U.S Soccer Foundation spreads a love for soccer by bringing quality programs to underserved communities. Soccer for Success programs launched in Miami-Dade thanks to partnerships with the foundation and the Children’s Trust, which distributes revenue collected from Miami-Dade County property taxes to community initiatives benefiting children.

“This is a one-of-a-kind program that tackles childhood obesity in a way that results in long-term positive effects for the whole family,” Children’s Trust President James Haj said in a news release. “Through it we’re bringing youth soccer to neighborhoods.”

Other partners making this program possible include Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth (FLIPANY), the city of North Miami Parks and Recreation and New Providence Missionary Baptist Church.

Liberty City, Little Havana and North Miami soccer sites are already in full swing, and sites in Sweetwater and Homestead kick-off this fall. Interested children each receive a soccer ball, shin guards and a jersey when they sign up at their local park.

The program serves kindergarten through eighth-grade children, according to the news release. Children meet three times a week for a nutrition lesson and at least one hour of physical activity led by a community-based coach and mentor, like FLIPANY’s Sarah Alston.

“We use games to make learning about nutrition fun and easy to remember. It’s great to see them learn soccer skills and progress in both areas,” Alston said.

Beyond teaching a new sport, the Soccer for Success program provides mentoring for children and fitness classes for caregivers. It uses nutrition education coupled with cooking classes to give families the tools for a healthy lifestyle.

“This is more than just soccer,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, president of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “It has evidence that shows it transforms the lives of children.”

To sign up

▪ Liberty City: Samuel K. Johnson Youth Center, 4920 NW 12th Ave., Miami, to pick up an application. Or call 305-329-4747 and ask for Eureca Coulanges or Yolanda Bethune.

▪ Little Havana: Contact Elisabeth Denal at 813-270-5184 or elisabethdenil@gmail.com.

▪ North Miami: For general information, contact North Miami Parks and Recreation, 12300 NE Eighth Ave., or call 305-895-9840

Residents interested in bringing this program to their area can contact Donovan Lee-Sin from the Children’s Trust at donovan@thechildrenstrust.org or Lynne Kunins from FLIPANY at lkunins@flipany.org.

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