ECNL Jerseys Donated to Project PUSH in South Africa
RICHMOND, VA (March 2, 2017) – An all-girls youth soccer team in South Africa is sporting much more than new uniforms. The youth players are wearing them with pride and the confidence to continue on as students of the game, thanks to a collaboration between the ECNL and the VCU Center for Sport Leadership.
Last month, jerseys from a former ECNL Nike National Training Camp made their way to a young women’s soccer team, RV United, in South Africa as part of Project PUSH. Project PUSH uses sport as a vessel for social change to impact communities for the better. The donated jerseys were delivered by Carrie LeCrom, Executive Director for the VCU Center for Sport Leadership, and her husband Erwan LeCrom, Director of Youth Development for Richmond Strikers Soccer Club.
The uniforms were especially valuable being a women’s cut, inspiring so many of the players in the program. More often than not, girls’ programs in South Africa are wearing men’s hand-me-down jerseys, in which they are truly grateful. But Project PUSH had something else in mind, gifting a kit that would fit the Amazing Young Women in the program. The gear will be put to good use, and eliminates one item on the growing list of needs for youth programs in South Africa.
Soccer is integral to the development of these young women, offering an outlet to learn more about the endless opportunities that exist in the world. The LeCroms are fortunate to have seen the impact that programs similar to Project PUSH, has had on communities, influencing much more than the physical wellness of participants. The sisterhood and camaraderie created through the structure of programs of the like, builds confidence and creativity within everyone it touches.. There is so much pressure on today’s youth, sometimes all it takes is a soccer ball to free the mind and learn true values to life.
Since 2007, the LeCroms, along with fellow staff members and coaches at both VCU and the Richmond Strikers have been running programs like Project PUSH in various countries around the world. Project PUSH itself was conceptualized around a funding announcement from the U.S. Department of State, confirming an investment in programs that bring social change through sport to countries in need.
The project focused on South Africa, a priority country for the U.S. government. The foundation had already been set with existing connections with the Boys and Girls Club of South Africa, Ragball International, and Grassroots Soccer; with a central focus on leadership amongst the youth, honing in on good decision-making which cuts across all social issues. Project PUSH was born, with the acronym ‘PUSH’ representing the phrase: Play Until Something Happens.
Project PUSH started in July 2015 when 14 South African football coaches and administrators came to the U.S. for two weeks of sport for social change training. The group of guests in Project PUSH represented the townships of Soweto, Alexandra, and Khayelitsha, where racial and socioeconomic disparities are stark.
Six months after the program’s launch, a group of 8 Americans (representatives from VCU, Richmond Strikers and others) traveled to South Africa to help the new South African counterparts implement the social action plans they created while in the United States for training. The most recent trip in February 2017 was the final follow-up to check in on the original group of coaches and administrators to measure how far the youth in their programs had come, and to discuss how to create long-term sustainability.
“Sport is such an amazing tool for doing so many things, and I think Project PUSH is an example of that. Through this program we get to show kids how fun sport can be, meet people from other countries and cultures, think more deeply about integrating education into our games, and expand our worldview,” Carrie Lecrom said about her experience with Project PUSH. “I know that I personally have been profoundly impacted by Project PUSH and others like it, and would find it hard to count the number of others who feel the same way.”
Although Project PUSH has depleted the funding for this particular program they will continue working with their counterparts in South Africa and supporting their programs remotely. The LeCroms will continue their mission to impact positive change on deserving communities around the world through the use of sport. The ECNL is grateful to have played a small role in the bigger picture of social change, and looks forward to future opportunities to collaborate and donate items for similar causes.
Thank you to everyone involved with Project PUSH, sharing your story and motivating others to join the movement on social change through sport.
About Elite Clubs National League: The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players for college and youth national teams through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs. The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.
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