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Professional Development

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Life Lessons from the Soccer Field

Friday, 22 May 2015 00:00

Last night was the first night of travel soccer tryouts for my daughter's youth soccer league. Youth sports are big business in our neck of the woods, and the 84 girls who showed up for last night's tryouts attest to the program's strength.

Given that the 84 girls will be trying out for a total of 48 spots, chances that my daughter won't make the cut are high. We talked about that, and she assured me that she was OK with it. She assures me that she just wants to see if she can do it.

Am I OK with it?

On the one hand, I am thankful that she's confident enough to put herself out there to try. On the other hand, I do the math and think her chances are so remote that it almost doesn't seem worth it. Or does it? If the only value I place on "worth" is whether or not she makes the team, then it's not likely worth it. But if I place value on the experience and/or dealing with disappointment, then the "worth" could be quite high. Whether or not she makes the travel team, I think she still will be playing soccer next season. Maybe not with or against the most elite, but rather with friends and schoolmates who still challenge her abilities and encourage her efforts.

All of these life lessons that my daughter will be gaining through just this one out-of-school time experience comprise a growing body of work that has the potential to be transformative for the afterschool field. "Youth success skills." "Power skills." "21st Century skills." "Soft skills." As a field, we call them by a number of different names; taken together, they represent the social, academic, and life skills that are known to be directly supported by effective social and emotional learning. Because conventional schooling in most places has not been able to focus productively on social and emotional learning and development, and because it's benefits are so well-demonstrated and wide-ranging, afterschool's opportunity to fill a crucial need is enormous.

As the leading national organization dedicated to the practice of afterschool, NAA will be dedicating a significant amount of time and resources to build the capacity of the afterschool field to impact social and emotional learning. We plan to share much more of this work with you in coming weeks and months. In the meantime, feel free to explore some of the links in the articles here to gain an overview of the importance of this work and the opportunities for our field ...

And I'll be sure to let you know how tryouts go! Or, more important, how things go in the days and weeks after!

Written by Gina Warner, President and CEO of the National AfterSchool Association.