Mike Magee and PLAYS participants

Chicago Fire Foundation Announces Expansion of P.L.A.Y.S. Program

CHICAGO (March 2, 2015) – The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced Monday that the Chicago Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth Soccer) Program will expand from eight to twelve Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) schools across Chicago, and will add programming in the fall to complement the existing spring program.

“P.L.A.Y.S. is part of a comprehensive set of initiatives aimed to be fun and transfer meaningful skills to those in need,” said Chicago Fire Owner and Chairman Andrew Hauptman. “Through programs like this, you can really see the possibilities, see the impact we can have as an organization and witness what soccer can do to enrich the lives of others.”

Created in 2013 in partnership with World Sport Chicago, the program integrates soccer with social and emotional learning (SEL) to not only help kids learn and enjoy soccer, but also strengthen academic performance. In 2013 and 2014, the ten-week program served 256 third through fifth grade boys and girls at eight AUSL schools.

“The Chicago Fire Foundation has been dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of underserved youth in the Chicagoland area for more than 15 years,” said Chicago Fire Foundation Executive Director Jessica Yavitz. “We’re excited to expand P.L.A.Y.S. into four additional schools. The Fire are utilizing our soccer expertise to offer this ground-breaking program as we continue to be a leader in sports-based youth development. The feedback that we receive from the participating schools and students only makes us want to do more.”

P.L.A.Y.S. integrates 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, respect, communication and teamwork are able to more effectively handle adversity and perform well in school. 

“AUSL is honored and grateful to have inaugurated the Chicago Fire P.L.A.Y.S. program in eight of our schools for the past few years,” said  Shana Hayes, Academy for Urban School Leadership Managing Director, External Affairs.  “This program provides an important and healthy opportunity for our third to fifth graders to engage in soccer, while benefiting from the social-emotional component of P.L.A.Y.S.  We are thrilled about the expansion to 12 schools this year and value the ongoing partnership of The Chicago Fire.”

“People underestimate what athletics can do for kids,” added Kristie Langbehn, Casals School of Excellence Principal. “Through P.L.A.Y.S. kids are learning how to relate to one another, how to be teammates and how to be disciplined in what they do. For our kids, it’s not just a game. They learn new skills that they are able to use in the future. I've watched this program bridge a gap in our school, our students and our parents and for that I'm grateful to Andrew Hauptman and the entire Chicago Fire Foundation. ”

The students participating in the program engage in 10 weeks of instruction via five out-of-school hours each week, plus an additional four game days. The eight schools returning are Bradwell School of Excellence, Herzl School of Excellence, Chalmers School of Excellence, Piccolo School of Excellence, Curtis School of Excellence, Casals School of Excellence, Deneen School of Excellence and Sherman School of Excellence. The four new participating schools are Tarkington School of Excellence, Marquette School of Excellence, McNair School of Excelence and Gresham School of Excellence.

Additional information on the P.L.A.Y.S. program can be found here.