In Philadelphia, the chance to provide young athletes of color life-changing opportunities through sports is limited. The SWAG is looking to change that. The SWAG provides free year-round soccer development program clinics for young athletes of color, ages four to eight, from the city of Philadelphia. The goal is to find young players who aspire to someday play soccer at a high level. This opportunity combines fun with professional soccer coaches at no cost; this truly will change lives through the beautiful game.
The SWAG: changing lives through soccer
Since 2018, The SWAG has been funded by the Silverback Educational Foundation For The Arts, Dance & Athletics. This foundation looks for underprivileged youths who want to take their talents to the next level. This makes the SWAG no-cost for the families/players.
The SWAG has also been endorsed by the Philadelphia Union academy, which could create a pathway to the pros for these players. With soccer’s popularity growing in the United States culminating with the future 2026 World Cup possibly being played in Philadelphia, the Swag has the opportunity to develop the next American soccer superstar in Philadelphia.
Global Game; Local Focus
Soccer is the sport of the world, but it has not yet made the leap in popularity in the United States. More and more people are starting to pay attention to soccer in the States, especially through the rise and expansion in Major League Soccer. The SWAG is hoping to ride this wave by getting local, hardworking people from neighborhoods in Philadelphia to pay attention to soccer through their program.
The SWAG’s program design is to showcase soccer as relevant, attractive, and fun. This is carried out through their commitment to the Philadelphia communities. For many of the families/players, there is little commitment shown to their communities when it comes to youth sports. With the SWAG’s local focus on a global game, they are creating a bond with the various Philadelphia communities. They also are creating a clear path forward for kids who don’t always have opportunities through the world of sports.
Dedication, Mentorship, Leadership
The SWAG is dedicated to its families/players, provides mentorship, and offers leadership opportunities. Their dedication is shown by those who support the SWAG’s mission, and also on the field in the way their coaches lead. Charities are able to donate to the Swag to help them with their mission of providing a cost-free program. The coaches in the program, led by Nick Bibbs, recruit nearly 100 kids to come to their SWAG select pool a year and help with mentoring and leadership skills as well.
The coaches are not just teaching kids and families about what makes a good soccer player, they are also mentors to their players and families. They show them what this game can do for those that want to be involved in it in their lives. These coaches also counsel their players and families to elevate their future athletic and educational opportunities. This also leads to the leadership aspect of the SWAG.
The coaches and council members are offered an internship opportunity with the private equity firm Graham Partners. This helps those who lead the SWAG to become more business savvy as the popularity of this sport and program increases over time! If that equity firm name sounds familiar, it’s because Richie Graham is a part-owner of the Philadelphia Union, where some of these players who go through the SWAG’s program may end up.
The next homegrown’s of the Philadelphia Union?
The Swag has been a feeder club for the Philadelphia Union’s Junior Academy, many of the SWAG’s players move up to the Union Juniors for that next stage of development. Could this mean that in the next seven to 10 years we will start seeing the Philadelphia Union sign some players who went through the SWAG program to the first team to feature in MLS games?
The answer to that question is yet to be seen, but with all of the groundwork the SWAG is laying down, it would be crazy not to see some of their players make the jump to the Union Junior’s then to the Union academy, and then to the first team itself. This is something that we at Philly Sports Network will be keeping an eye on as we move into what could be a soccer renaissance in America over the next decade!
For more information on this truly life-changing opportunity in the city of Philadelphia that is the SWAG, be sure to check out their website: https://www.the-swag.org/
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Mandatory Credit: The-SWAG.org