Chicago Fire Foundation Launches P.L.A.Y.S. Program

CHICAGO, Ill. (March 28, 2013) – The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced Wednesday the launch of the Chicago Fire Foundation P.L.A.Y.S. Program (Participate, Learn, Achieve Youth Soccer) created in partnership with World Sport Chicago. This first of its kind program integrates soccer with social and emotional learning (SEL) to not only help kids learn and enjoy soccer, but also strengthen academic performance. The 10-week program, beginning April 1, serves 256 third through fifth grade boys and girls at eight Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) schools across Chicago.
“For more than 15 years, the Chicago Fire Foundation has strived to make a positive impact on the lives of underserved youth in the Chicagoland area,” said Chicago Fire owner Andrew Hauptman. “The P.L.A.Y.S. Program takes youth soccer programs to a new level by also building skills shown to help kids in the classroom. We are very pleased to be part of creating a new opportunity with our partners to take advantage of our unique position and continue to utilize the power of soccer across our community.”
The uniqueness of the P.L.A.Y.S. program is the integration of soccer and a curriculum focused on instilling grit as a means to grow social and emotional learning (SEL) skills of youth. Research into grit has shown that kids with a high degree of emotional control, goal setting and attainment, cooperation and respect, and communication and teamwork are able to more effectively handle adversity and perform well in school.  With the collaboration of World Sport Chicago, AUSL, the University of North Carolina and the University of Chicago and Mindful Practices, the Chicago Fire Foundation has developed the first youth sports curriculum that uses sport to develop grit in students.
“World Sport Chicago is proud to be working with the Fire in creating such an innovative sport program,” said Scott Myers, executive director of World Sport Chicago. “With the help of AUSL and our university partners, we believe we and the Fire will be able to demonstrate that sport can be a key tool not only in providing youth with a fun and healthy activity but also in strengthening their academic skills.”
Kicking off April 1, the students participating in the program will engage in 10 weeks of instruction via five out-of-school hours each week, plus an additional three game days. The eight schools chosen for the inaugural year of the P.L.A.Y.S. Program are Bradwell School of Excellence (South Shore), Bethune School of Excellence (North Lawndale), Casals School of Excellence (Humboldt Park), Deneen School of Excellence (Englewood), Herzl School of Excellence (North Lawndale), Piccolo School of Excellence (North Edgewood), and Curtis School of Excellence (Roseland).
The program will conclude with a celebration event scheduled to take place at the Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers game at Toyota Park on June 8, 2013.