The Maryland State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA), as part of the legacy efforts of the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Candidate Host City bid, announced Aug. 25 the creation of the Let’s Play initiative, an afterschool program for students in select schools across the State of Maryland, starting in Baltimore City, Hagerstown, and Silver Spring.
“I could not be more proud or excited for MSYSA to be collaborating with our amazing community partners to bring the Let’s Play program to so many wonderful young people in Elementary Schools across Maryland,” said MSYSA Executive Director Greg Smith, adding, “Let’s Play will undoubtedly, positively impact the lives of all who participate and will create the opportunity for the beautiful game of soccer to leave a lasting legacy!”
“One of the most important goals that we have for the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Candidate Host City bid is the impact we leave as a result of being a host candidate city. The Let’s Play initiative will help to grow the sport of soccer (football) in our local communities, giving more children the opportunity and access to play and learn the ‘Beautiful Game’,” said Terry Hasseltine, President of the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Host Candidate City.
Let’s Play is an after-school program designed to transform the lives of students by providing a safe, community-supported program that helps to teach social and emotional skills while fighting obesity and related illnesses, and building character and self esteem. The beautiful game of soccer is used as a vehicle to directly, positively impact the lives of participants while indirectly, strengthening and positively impacting communities. Additionally, Let’s Play is designed to reduce negative behavior, improve mental health and well-being, and improve educational and academic achievement all while growing excitement around the beautiful game of soccer.
With an overall goal of spreading to more schools across the State of Maryland, the three schools that will pilot Let’s Play for the 2021-2022 school year will be Southwest Baltimore Charter School in Baltimore City (Baltimore City), Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown (Washington County), and Jackson Road Elementary School in Silver Spring (Montgomery County). MSYSA is also partnering with Elev8 Baltimore, a local initiative which focuses on providing out-of-school time opportunities, school-based health services, and resources, support and outreach for families in and around Baltimore City, to host Let’s Play at Cherry Hill Elementary School (Baltimore City) and Arundel Elementary School (Baltimore City).
“We are so thrilled that Southwest Baltimore Charter School was chosen to be an MSYSA site! After 18 months of being cooped up, we know that our students cannot wait to get out to Carroll Park, learn some skills, and just PLAY! Soccer is a universal sport that will open up the world to our students and spark a lifelong love of team sports. Through MSYSA, our students will experience the joy of exercise, collaboration, and being part of something larger than oneself. We are so excited about this partnership and look forward to helping MSYSA spread the love for soccer all over Baltimore City,” said Erika Brockman, Executive Director of Southwest Baltimore Charter School.
“We are very excited to expand our partnership with Liverpool FCIA MD, MSYSA and the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Bid in providing quality programming to our students. With our intentional focus on wellness the soccer program will foster critical social and emotional skills while promoting a lifelong love for sports,” said Amanda Boyle, Site Coordinator at Bester Elementary School, Bester Community of Hope.
“Elev8 Baltimore, Inc. is incredibly excited to partner with MSYSA and the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Bid to offer Let’s Play to our students. This initiative will provide students enrolled in afterschool programs with an opportunity to learn about the game of soccer, in a fun setting, that also promotes physical fitness and an active lifestyle. It will also allow our students a chance to build relationships with mentors and their peers while learning the importance of collaboration beyond a classroom setting. We look forward to working with MSYSA and the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup committee to provide this opportunity to the children in our community,” said Alexandria Adams, Executive Director of Elev8 Baltimore.
The program will take place at the individual school, one day a week, for eight weeks in the fall (September through October) and again in the spring (April through May). Each session lasts 60-75 minutes, focusing on soccer training and incorporating nutrition and life skills training (SEL).
Each participant will be provided with a branded soccer ball and t-shirt. Player gear, including cleats and shin guards, can be provided free of charge by Leveling the Playing Field, where needed. All coaches are trained with key Coaching for Character and Coaching with Empathy fundamentals by Coaching Corps.
MSYSA is currently recruiting qualified individuals to serve as coaches for the upcoming Let’s Play school year. For more information, click here.
— Maryland Youth Soccer Association press release