SWOLing for Good: Soccer Without Borders

We call it the world’s game. We call it the beautiful game. We wear our teams’ and countries’ colors with exuberant pride. We roar loudly at every goal and exhale with relief at every clean sheet.

Soccer is a game built on deft skills and artfully executed teamwork; fueled by deep rooted passion and commitment. But, there is another side to the game we love, where those same skills, teamwork, passion and commitment are channeled towards a greater good as well as a common goal.

Soccer Without Borders Founder Ben Gucciardi (via Facebook)

Around the world, soccer has become an amazing tool for creating meaningful social change. From major European and US cities to remote parts of Africa and Central America, there are dozens of nonprofit programs, clubs and NGOs which step onto the pitch to address some of the planet’s biggest challenges. These issues include poverty, homelessness, disease prevention, literacy, environmental awareness, racial equality, disabilities and a myriad of other critical issues.

At Soccer Without Limits (SWOL), we want to shine a light on those who channel their love for the game into their work in the community. Every touch, every pass, every tackle takes on greater meaning when the goal is a win for more than the shirt on your back.

We encourage you to take a moment and learn more about these amazing organizations and how you can channel your own passion and commitment to soccer into making a difference in the world.

And that is truly a beautiful game.


Program Name: Soccer Without Borders
Location (City/State): 

9 programs in the US and abroad:
Baltimore, MD
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL
Granada, Nicaragua
Greeley, CO
Kampala, Uganda
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Oakland, CA

Website: www.soccerwithoutborders.org
Contact: [email protected]

Soccer Without Borders is a 501c3 non-profit that runs community-led, year-round, youth development programs in under-served areas in the USA and abroad. Our mission is to use soccer as a vehicle for positive change, providing under-served youth with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success. We provide a supportive, positive team environment to youth who are traditionally excluded from sports-based and extracurricular activities. Our adaptable framework consists of five main activities: Soccer Play and Instruction, Team-building Activities, Off-field Education, Civic Engagement, and Cultural Exchange. Caring mentors and coaches implement these activities in three types of programs: Core, Seasonal, and Camp. Core programs operate year-round, 3-5 days per week.  Seasonal programs offer activities at least 20 weeks per year, 1-3 days per week. Camps are an intensive, condensed version of our program, and usually take place for 12 or more hours over a one-week period. Within each program, our model provides youth with an avenue for positive engagement, a platform for personal growth, and a toolkit for a brighter future.

How did Soccer Without Borders get started?

Our Founder, Ben Gucciardi, imagined and designed SWB as a part of an entrepreneurship competition in graduate school.  He believed that soccer could be a vehicle, an outdoor classroom of sorts, through which social issues could be addressed while supporting some of the world’s most under-served youth. His vision has evolved over time and through experience to become the program model we have today, but the underlying belief remains the same: soccer is universally accessible and one of the most unifying forces on the planet.

What has been the biggest challenge in running Soccer Without Borders?

Our biggest challenge has been narrowing our focus from its original worldwide reach to a more specific, targeted approach. Soccer’s universality opens doors of possibility in communities around the world. Likewise, there is a greater need for positive, educational programs for youth than could ever be filled by us or by any one organization. Identifying, defining, and embracing our role in the larger mosaic of soccer-based youth development programs has been a challenge, but we have come a long way since our founding. Recognizing our strengths and building the organization around those has helped us make great strides toward finding our niche.

What are some of the life skills that playing soccer teaches us? 

Our program model focuses not just on playing soccer, but on the experience of being an invested member of a team working toward individual and collective goals. We embrace Positive Youth Development Theory, aiming to develop the “5 C’s”: Competence, Confidence, Character, Connection, and Compassion. The interpersonal and skill-building environment of a team is the perfect place to develop these attributes in youth. With the 5 C’s as their toolkit, youth can overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success.

How can soccer fans get involved to support Soccer Without Borders?

Soccer fans can follow us on Facebook or sign up for our quarterly newsletter to stay up-to-date on volunteer opportunities and events in their area that support SWB. We have fundraiser tournaments, SWB day at professional games, and many other ways to get involved. The most immediate way to support SWB, of course, is to make a donation directly at www.soccerwithoutborders.org/donate.


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