How do you fight pay-to-play and provide equal access to young soccer players regardless of socio-economic status? We held a FREE college ID camp.

one of the issues talented soccer players from low-income families face is being seen by the coaches and scouts who offer opportunities to play after high school. coaches from colleges and universities often scout players at ID camps, held at various locations across the country, that cost hundreds of dollars for players to compete in. our players and their families do not have the means to pay for these camps and often have no way of physically getting to them. most camps are held far outside the city, so on top of registration costs, transportation is a major barrier to entry for our players as well. to overcome these challenges, Open Goal Project in partnership with District Sports hosted our first DC college id camp as a completely free opportunity for players in our community.

more than 70 players competed in front of coaches from Howard University, Washington Adventist University, Prince George's County Community College, Frostburg State University, and Northern Virginia Community College.

hosting our DC college id camp was another step in our mission to provide equal access to high-level soccer opportunities to players who haven’t had them in the past. click here to see our executive director Amir Lowery addressing the players at the camp.

we’re more confident than ever that our commitment at Open Goal Project to keep putting events like this on will continue to bridge the accessibility gap and open opportunities, on and off the field, for players in our community: even the field; change the game ⚽️⚽️⚽️

Open Goal Project
Meet Axel: With your support, our Open Goal Project roster is growing.
 our Open Goal Project roster is growing and we’re already starting to see some incredible results. this weekend we were able to provide resources to empower Axel and his family to travel overnight to Richmond to compete in the Jefferson Cup regional tournament with his Capital Futbol Club team.  above you'll see Axel playing in the final and below is a shot of him and his team celebrating with his little brother Christopher in front, holding the trophy after winning the tournament. as we continue to support more players through our program, your help is all the more important in creating vital growth opportunities. on behalf of our players and our families, thank you for continuing to help open goals, on and off the field.

our Open Goal Project roster is growing and we’re already starting to see some incredible results. this weekend we were able to provide resources to empower Axel and his family to travel overnight to Richmond to compete in the Jefferson Cup regional tournament with his Capital Futbol Club team.

above you'll see Axel playing in the final and below is a shot of him and his team celebrating with his little brother Christopher in front, holding the trophy after winning the tournament. as we continue to support more players through our program, your help is all the more important in creating vital growth opportunities. on behalf of our players and our families, thank you for continuing to help open goals, on and off the field.

Capital Futbol Club after winning Jefferson Cup
Open Goal Project
11 Open Goal Project players invited back for extended DC United Academy trial after free tryout
 as part of our mission to connect talented young players from low-income families in dc with high-level developmental soccer experiences, we’re consistently searching for new opportunities and unique partnerships to allow our players to grow with the game and make the most of their potential on the pitch. in December, we hosted our first ever free DC United Academy tryout for Open Goal Project players. nearly 200 youth players from more than 50 local schools attended, and a total of 11 players were invited back for extended trial runs with United Academy teams. teaming up with United and DC SCORES, we empowered nearly 200 players from DC Public Schools to be evaluated by DCU Academy coaches and trainers at United’s training complex. we hosted three sessions, giving players from 4th grade to 12th grade the chance to play in front of and potentially be identified by coaches for Academy selection. this tryout and unique partnership was an important step for our mission as we continue to look for ways to even the playing field for players all over our city who have never had opportunities, like this one, to realize their full potential as players on the field and young people off the field. for the 11 players who were invited back for extended tryouts with the club, Open Goal Project has been working with those players and their parents to provide them with logistical coordination, assistance with transportation and translation services to make sure they can make the most of this unique opportunity and hopefully be selected to join DC United's youth program. the players who have been invited back by DCU coaches were not playing any formal soccer outside of DC SCORES or DC Public School teams, a stunning confirmation of our belief that if we give our players an opportunity to shine and a platform to be seen, the sky is the limit.

as part of our mission to connect talented young players from low-income families in dc with high-level developmental soccer experiences, we’re consistently searching for new opportunities and unique partnerships to allow our players to grow with the game and make the most of their potential on the pitch. in December, we hosted our first ever free DC United Academy tryout for Open Goal Project players. nearly 200 youth players from more than 50 local schools attended, and a total of 11 players were invited back for extended trial runs with United Academy teams. teaming up with United and DC SCORES, we empowered nearly 200 players from DC Public Schools to be evaluated by DCU Academy coaches and trainers at United’s training complex. we hosted three sessions, giving players from 4th grade to 12th grade the chance to play in front of and potentially be identified by coaches for Academy selection. this tryout and unique partnership was an important step for our mission as we continue to look for ways to even the playing field for players all over our city who have never had opportunities, like this one, to realize their full potential as players on the field and young people off the field. for the 11 players who were invited back for extended tryouts with the club, Open Goal Project has been working with those players and their parents to provide them with logistical coordination, assistance with transportation and translation services to make sure they can make the most of this unique opportunity and hopefully be selected to join DC United's youth program. the players who have been invited back by DCU coaches were not playing any formal soccer outside of DC SCORES or DC Public School teams, a stunning confirmation of our belief that if we give our players an opportunity to shine and a platform to be seen, the sky is the limit.

Open Goal Project
Our Open Goal Project mission featured in the Washington Post!
 amazing: our  open goal project mission has been featured in the Washington Post by Steven Goff !  "Open Goal Project isn’t a team or league; rather, it’s a facilitator for kids in need of opportunity, particularly those from immigrant households where the sport is popular but not played in a structured environment," The article reads. "Lowery and Landau have aimed to find overlooked kids and arrange tryouts with established travel teams in the area. Through fundraising efforts, which include a line of  soccer-tinged clothing  and  Lowery’s artwork and photography , they pay for transportation to and from practices and matches; offset the expense of uniforms, equipment and registration; and underwrite the cost of trips around the country and abroad."   read the full feature story on Washington Post online  and thank you for your continued support to help open goals!

amazing: our open goal project mission has been featured in the Washington Post by Steven Goff!

"Open Goal Project isn’t a team or league; rather, it’s a facilitator for kids in need of opportunity, particularly those from immigrant households where the sport is popular but not played in a structured environment," The article reads. "Lowery and Landau have aimed to find overlooked kids and arrange tryouts with established travel teams in the area. Through fundraising efforts, which include a line of soccer-tinged clothing and Lowery’s artwork and photography, they pay for transportation to and from practices and matches; offset the expense of uniforms, equipment and registration; and underwrite the cost of trips around the country and abroad."

read the full feature story on Washington Post online and thank you for your continued support to help open goals!

Open Goal Project
The importance of being there for our players...on and off the field
 beyond coordination and financial support,  we've built our program  on intense mentorship for our players. because they are working long hours, parents of many of our kids will never be able to see them play, let alone accompany them on travel trips required in elite youth soccer. for our players to grow on the field and as young men and women off the field, we know we need to be there for them...  so as Precious,  who hadn't played travel soccer until being identified by Open Goal Project a year ago, plays this weekend at an invite-only select US club soccer ID camp in Boston , our Open Goal Project  executive director Amir Lowery  has made the trip to cheer her on from the sidelines. this is just one step in Precious' journey and we're ecstatic we can be there for her along the way.

beyond coordination and financial support, we've built our program on intense mentorship for our players. because they are working long hours, parents of many of our kids will never be able to see them play, let alone accompany them on travel trips required in elite youth soccer. for our players to grow on the field and as young men and women off the field, we know we need to be there for them...

so as Precious, who hadn't played travel soccer until being identified by Open Goal Project a year ago, plays this weekend at an invite-only select US club soccer ID camp in Boston, our Open Goal Project executive director Amir Lowery has made the trip to cheer her on from the sidelines. this is just one step in Precious' journey and we're ecstatic we can be there for her along the way.

Open Goal Project
Sidelined: How obstacles in American pay-to-play youth soccer are phasing out talented players and the method being used in DC to fix it
pay to play

So the US Men’s National team won’t be participating in the 2018 World Cup in Moscow…now what?  Why is the world’s most powerful nation still struggling to make progress to compete on the world’s stage in the beautiful game? It’s a question that every columnist and soccer fan has been asking since Tuesday’s loss. And while many people have many answers, we at Open Goal Project have built our program and a logistical blueprint to combat the one issue that we believe is the biggest hindrance to our growth of the sport at the youth level: Pay-to-play.

Pay-to-play meaning, quite simply, that to just participate, a young soccer player’s family needs to fork over money…lots and lots of money. And if a player doesn’t have that money, they rarely find opportunity.

But if you dig deeper, "pay to play" doesn't just pose financial issues, it's actually a catchall for several obstacles beyond money. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, invisible barriers to entry are making it virtually impossible for talented minorities from low-income families to be discovered, to compete and to continue to develop within the American youth soccer landscape. After seeing these barriers first hand, we at Open Goal Project have developed a system and model that we are implementing and succeeding with, empowering talented players from low-income families make the most of their natural potential on and off the field.

We launched Open Goal Project in 2015 to help support three talented youth soccer players from low-income families in DC and since then we’ve helped dozens access opportunities to grow with the game.  As our mission has unfolded, we’ve gotten an up-close look at how all these hidden obstacles are phasing out players, with so much potential, likely all over the country, before they even begin to come up through the system.

Terrific talent, sidelined.

While many people talk about the pay-to-play problem, we’ve actually learned the issue is comprised of three specific factors that act as obstacles for our players:

1.     Lack of parental knowledge and involvement

2.     Transportation challenges

3.     The money

Here’s how we’re helping our players overcome those obstacles…

1.     LACK OF PARENTAL KNOWLEDGE AND INVOLVEMENT

To start, our players’ parents didn’t even know what travel soccer was. Sons and daughters of Central American and African immigrants, the players that we work with have mothers and fathers that are so busy trying to make ends meet for their families, they don’t have the knowledge or the time to explore extracurricular growth activities for their children.  One of the players we support---who wasn’t even playing travel soccer a year ago because of lack of resources---was invited to attend a national team ID camp this past month.  Her single mother of three daughters, who works the overnight shift as a nurse, has still never seen her play.

To identify our players, we’ve teamed up with DC SCORES, the District’s largest after-school soccer nonprofit, to go into inner city public schools, identify their highest performing players and effectively communicate to the parents or guardians the benefits and potential growth opportunities that playing high-level soccer can present their child’s future. These are parents who have never been to college, some who have never been to high school, so without us fully explaining how the game could take their son or daughter places they could never dream of, they will have no grasp of the potential life impact. 

Once we’ve identified a player, our Open Goal Executive Director, former MLS player Amir Lowery, actively seeks out specific opportunities to facilitate for those players – a task that generally falls on a player’s mother or father. From that point, logistical items, scholarship applications and required paperwork for our players runs through an Open Goal point person. It might seem like a lot of handholding, but to make it work, it’s what’s necessary. Whether it’s battling a language barrier or not having access to a computer or printer in the home, when parents face obstacles, the kids face obstacles. Our logistical coordination provides stability for our players to keep seeking higher opportunities for growth that their parents simply cannot provide.

2.     LACK OF TRANSPORTATION

You might not think of something as seemingly simple as physically getting to practices and games could pose a challenge, but it’s a huge undertaking that our players face consistently.

At a young age, how do you get to a soccer practice? Our players have mothers or fathers who have to work around the clock to put food on the table. Many of the mothers and fathers we work with don’t even have a own car.

Sometimes we’ve tried to coordinate rides for our players with teammates, but for many of our players, their teammates don’t live anywhere nearby.

In our early days, our players would take public transit, but the amount of time required to take multiple crosstown buses for a weeknight practice could take several hours roundtrip.

As we started seeking out transportation alternatives, coordinating Lyft and Uber rides for our players has become our preferred method.

3.     MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Of course, the number one issue with pay-to-play is money itself. For families who are living around the poverty line, buying new cleats is a lot, but shelling out thousands of dollars each year for their kid to play is inconceivable, regardless of how talented they are or how bright a future they have.

The registration costs for players can run thousands of dollars per year, just to step on the field. That’s before you even start talking about additional opportunities for growth and exposure like ID weekends and summer camps required to be seen by high-level coaches, costs associated with trips for far-away tournaments like hotels, transportation and meals on the road, and top-level gear. At the end of the day, the price-tag that comes with trying to compete and gain exposure for players who are excelling in America’s youth soccer system is set in the $5,000-$10,000 range, annually.  It’s a premier cost for any parent to pay and one that our families cannot even consider.

WHAT THIS MEANS

You may know all of these things and you may have seen them in your communities, but we’ve come to learn through this process that if we are not paying close attention to each of these issues, gaps continue to form, putting our players on an uneven field.

Since we’ve developed this method to attack these problems, Open Goal Project has:

·      Watched one of our players compete in an invite-only ID weekend used to identify players for the national team pool.

·      Helped register more than a dozen local players to travel soccer teams

·     Seen another one of our players lead her team to their first Virginia State Cup championship in 40 years

·      Covered registration and costs for numerous players to attend summer and ID camps

·      Provided free clinics and high-level training for dozens of youth players

We don’t know if our method will “fix” issues associated with pay-to-play in the United States, but we do know that it seems to be working to help our players overcome the gaps for us here in DC. 

Open Goal Project remains a work in process, but we remain confident that reaching even one player and giving them the platform and resources to fulfill their natural potential on the field can go a long way in the long run, for our players, for our community as a whole and for the growth of the beautiful game in this country---for all, regardless of socio-economic status.

Open Goal Project
Open Goal Project player becomes first in his family to go to college
  our mission  is to provide our players with opportunities to grow on and off the field, using soccer as a vehicle for greater life experiences. we believe we can use the power of soccer to empower our players to develop as young men and women and so we're thrilled to watch one of our former Open Goal Projects players, Sam, kick off his college career in the classroom at Montgomery College. while his first year he'll be focusing on school and work, he's hoping to strap on his boots for MC's team in his second year. Sam will be the first member of his family to go to college and we couldn't be more excited to watch him continue to develop as a young player and a young man.  believe in something bigger: thank you for helping open goals ⚽️⚽️⚽️

our mission is to provide our players with opportunities to grow on and off the field, using soccer as a vehicle for greater life experiences. we believe we can use the power of soccer to empower our players to develop as young men and women and so we're thrilled to watch one of our former Open Goal Projects players, Sam, kick off his college career in the classroom at Montgomery College. while his first year he'll be focusing on school and work, he's hoping to strap on his boots for MC's team in his second year. Sam will be the first member of his family to go to college and we couldn't be more excited to watch him continue to develop as a young player and a young man. believe in something bigger: thank you for helping open goals ⚽️⚽️⚽️

Open Goal Project