Open Field is a 2021
AO Impact Grant Recipient
Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA
Mission Statement: “Our mission is to improve the lives and futures of youth through sport. Open Field connects with youth to improve health, support education, empower girls, build leadership skills, and promote peace through the global game of soccer.”
Project Details: Open Field is requesting funds for our project called “Empowering Refugee Girls Through Soccer”. The main activity is a Soccer + Life Skills program for 50 refugee girls who live in diverse, low resource neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. We utilize a sport-based youth development (SBYD) approach that incorporates educational messaging and engaging conversations into soccer sessions led by caring adults who serve as coach mentors. Our programming incorporates social and emotional skills learning to help participants understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Girls also learn positive communication skills, teamwork, and gain confidence in themselves.
Working with girls in these two low-resource, culturally diverse communities for nearly two years, Open Field staff and volunteers identified a need for more intentional, girls-only programming to address the challenges they face. Our girls’ program, for which we are requesting support will be led by female identifying/
presenting coach mentors. It will include twice-weekly afternoon/evening session that are 90 minutes in duration and feature play, positive role models, and relationship-building. Activities will also include friendly soccer games against local clubs, pizza parties and awards ceremonies, and outings to events such as professional soccer games. Open Field provides equipment, and the program occurs near the neighborhoods where participants live.
This project is culturally relevant and responsive to the needs of the community. Our soccer-centered, community-based approach encourages a sense of ownership within youth participants and promotes safe activation of public spaces. The impact of having female-presenting coach mentors is already being felt since beginning our 2021 season in April, as coach mentors have reported girls asking very personal questions that they would likely never ask a male coach.