Program, Player & Partnership Highlights

Thanks to a three-year grant from the Women’s Fund of Essex County, Beyond Soccer has partnered up with the Center for Healing and Justice Through Sport (CHJS) to develop researched-backed training and curriculum to enhance our girls-in-sports & wellness programs, which inherently addresses the 7 qualities or “C’s” of resilience, competence, confidence, character, connection, contribution, coping, and control. We are creating focus groups and will also benefit from measurement & evaluation strategies with Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. See full PRESS RELEASE.

To coincide with National Girls & Women in Sports Day, Coach Mentors & former players Sadie, Oriagna & Celia designed a curriculum for middle school girls. It meant 30+ girls coming together every Monday for 4 weeks to discuss rotating topics like positive self-talk, stress management, and what it means to be #GirlsInSports! They also engaged in team builders, like themed Jeopardy or creating tissue paper flowers for Valentine's Day. This program is just one way we're working to increase the # of girls in our programs, improve our off-the-field youth development approach, and advance the Women's Fund Resilient Girls-in-Sports Project!

"Thanks to the Lefty” Scholarship, I could dorm at UML and because of that, I have benefited a lot. I got involved on campus. I joined the UML club soccer team. I found a job on campus and can walk to school, which is way better than driving half an hour to my classes. I have taken advantage of this opportunity, and my GPA is 3.9. I have made many friends who have my back and motivate me in all areas to complete my engineering major and stay active. This scholarship relieved so much stress so I can study more and enjoy life on campus instead of working every day after school." -Luiz UMass Freshman, 1st in family to attend college & 1st recipient of Paul "Lefty" Wennik Outstanding Character Scholarship.

As we redevelop Fuel for Performance classes that get youth learning about “fueling” their bodies for play, we think we've figured out its off-season focus. The credit goes to staffer William Inirio, who organized the first 20 high school players for a 4-hour cooking competition with a healthy twist. It included a grocery store run, meal prep in the teaching kitchen, and team presentations to the judges, who were all past or present Coach Mentors! The event’s success, with great teamwork and creativity, prompted a second team competition for 5th-8th grade girls, who had to stay within a budget too! The winner was a taco trio plate topped with caramelized onions and homemade guacamole.

Almost 300 kids play weekly futsal!

This commitment means 20 hours of weekend play at the YWCA. Soccer Director Chris ensures opportunities for all ages, plus league play on Sundays. It motivated the staff to utilize all leftover shirts, ironing on numbers so kids get that “team” feel. Most of these experiences are led by former players like Donovan (pictured here). He shares, “I like to coach the kids because it reminds me of when I practiced back then with Beyond.” His consistent, positive, desire-to-learn attitude couldn’t be better for the kids or the mission.

567 hours of programs since December!

We’ve run programs every day in 2024. It requires a tremendous team effort and a big investment in facility partnerships. Lupoli Co. continues to change the game with a contract for turf access at the Pavilion @ Riverwalk 3 days/week, when above freezing. We also run 18-24 hours of weekend futsal at the YWCA, plus academic overtime, wellness programs and movie nights in our enrichment space. The resources to make this happen–or support 567 hrs for 400 kids in the “off-season” is #beyond enormous, and we can only do that because of you!

Academic Overtime benefits 19 youth, M-Th!

Afterschool tutoring is going strong in the John & Lydia Smith Academic Overtime space, recently upgraded with 18 computers thanks to the Cummings Foundation Make a Difference Dollars (MAD$) Program! Today, 16 tutors, including Merrimack College students & former players, assist students, 1-on-1, most weekdays. "I will let you know that J had a great week. He tried his best, asked questions when confused, and completed all his assignments. It's obvious your program is helping" -Teacher. March marks 6+ months of tutoring, led by alumni Will Inirio.

We're motivated by our first family event!

Programs & Partnership Manager Iris said it's time to host a family get-together. She was right, along with Families United through Soccer Experiences (#FUSE) leader Cesy and other motivated parents, who spearheaded our 1st family celebration since 2020. It brought together 300 parents and players on March 9th for food and fun. Let's "Get R.E.A.L.” bracelet awards were also unveiled (more below), recognizing players in each age group for consistently showing Respect—Effort— Attendance--Leadership. More awards and more celebrations to come.

Dick’s Sporting Goods- Sports Changes Lives Campaign: Beyond Soccer is one of 75 beneficiaries! We’re #beyond motivated! See more!

In 2019, the DICK'S Sporting Goods' Sports Matter Program set a goal to help one million kids participate in sports by 2024. Can you believe it only took them three years to surpass that goal? To celebrate their impact and 75 years in operation, DICK'S Foundation committed to providing 75 grants of $75,000 each to selected youth sports programs across the nation that are changing lives through sport, on and off the field. Beyond Soccer was one of those fortunate beneficiaries, and we couldn't be more grateful or motivated! Please check out their efforts, which include partnerships with Good Sports plus a $1.5 million collaboration with Local Initiatives Support Corp to create or renovate up to 20 multi-use youth sports spaces in underserved communities through its Game On-Community Places to Play Initiative. Wow, do both sports & spaces matter! Beyond Soccer only exists because other groups and corporations recognize the power of play and work together to maximize impact.

"My coach told me I ran like a girl, and I told him if he ran a little faster, he could too!" - Mia Hamm

Beyond Soccer started with 12 girls, and since that first team, the Mia Hamm Foundation has supported that focus...

Once again, the Mia Hamm Foundation is all-in for our Girls in Sports & Wellness priorities, which are especially important this year. It will advance the work with the Women's Fund of Essex County and The Center for Healing & Justice through Sport's role in this # team effort approach. Stephanie could not wait to share with Michelle Brunner, the Foundation's Executive Director, how it will redevelop curriculum and training specific to girls and make them more resilient. We will never get tired of reminding folks that Mia Hamm's exemplary leadership in sports, on and off the field, was a big inspiration for the start of Beyond Soccer and that first Wolves team--short for Wolverines! #TY

The Cummings Foundation recognized this effort with a $50,000 matching donation challenge grant to help us ensure it is an annual, self-sustaining fund that helps more seniors like Luiz every year.

To support the scholarship fund, please click HERE.

Our Board of Directors raised the initial funds to award Luiz Lopez the first Paul “Lefty” Wennik Outstanding Character Scholarship. It meant Luiz received $5,000 in college tuition to attend UMass Lowell. For Luiz, it filled a tuition gap that the family was trying to meet and was a total surprise! He's so deserving of this 1st scholarship. Luiz is known for his fun coaching style (as a Summer Coach Mentor) that has hyped up young players with shouts of encouragement that sound like battle cries. It’s also why he was an outstanding fit, as Paul “Lefty” Wennik is known for his outgoing, gregarious personality. Luiz & his twin brother joined Beyond Soccer as talented players at age 10 when Paul was our first Board President. Luiz, like Paul, continues to be a team player, and today, after graduating high school with a GPA of 4.0, he is the first in his family to attend a 4-year university. We hope you saw Luiz's first-year progress report above. The scholarship committee is now accepting 2024 applications; the deadline is April 15th. For info, email:

The Center for Healing & Justice through Sports is ALL-IN for 3 years!

Thanks to Anthony Andino, Director of Training at #CHJS, our staff benefited from phenomenal coach training in February. It's part of our focus on providing better sports programming “centered” around improved youth development and social-emotional learning.

As the year progresses, there will be much more from and with #CHJS. They’re a key partner in our commitment to ensuring #CoachMentors have the tools, training, and confidence to influence and support the youth they lead more positively, or as CHJS more eloquently puts it, can better “leverage the inherent healing powers of sport.” The energy was high—can’t you tell--with lots of interactive games. We’re especially excited about their work in partnership with the Essex County Women’s Foundation’s Resilient Girls Project, assessing current programs, systems, and strategies and learning from our stakeholders about how girls are being supported and “healed” through play, so we can do better and do more! 

Thanks to efforts by first-year #CoachMentor Eder, we developed a player reward system called Let's Get R.E.A.L.! (Respect Effort, Attendance & Leadership)

How? During the fall season, while leading the Gr. 5 Jaguars, Eder reinforced the essential values of teamwork, can-do attitudes, and being a lead-by-example motivator with captainships. All season, two girls were selected weekly as game day and following week captains. Responsibilities included leading pre-game & practice warmups, being assigned vocal roles on the field and sidelines and handling the popular coin toss!

Eder’s use of captain bands inspired Soccer Director Chris to follow suit with his Gr. 4 Lions. And now, this winter, we created Beyond Soccer wristbands (thank you, OmniPrint in Lawrence) to encourage similar player values and actions with and between teammates, parents, and coach mentors. We also ensure players are committing to their schoolwork (yes, we're collecting more report cards), having can-do attitudes, and stepping up when asked or not. These players were recognized at our first Winter Season Potluck thanks to the efforts of #FUSE. Again, it's another example of a #teameffort with Beyond Soccer trying to lead by example and to get better every season.

Andy Guzman, who also assists with Academic Overtime and futsal, has photography interests--can't you tell? He completed two photo editing classes at Lawrence High, plus outside photography, like at family quinceaneras. Soccer Director Chris learned about his photo interest and gave him a #shot. Now, he's got a role, earning a stipend while capturing our programs. P.S. Andy was a '23 Summer #CoachMentor, plays for our high school team, and will attend Boston College to study computer science with his 3.9 GPA in September.

Lots of sports groups and city organizations are focused on increasing girls' participation in sports!

The "Championing Her Game" Series championed” by Everyone’s A Player and the Mayor’s Health Task Force and advanced by Lawrence Public Schools, Lawrence Recreation, the Mayor’s Office, and Lawrence Sports Alliance, meant 300+ girls participated in 6 different days of sports and wellness with a host of partners. Read more on EAP’s social media page, like the Bruins Foundation, Red Sox Foundation, and Jr. Celtics contributions! Our #beyond players loved being part of the “soccer and healthy active session” at The Pavilion at Riverwalk led by the awesome New England Revolution Academy team, UMass Lowell Athletics Women's Soccer, and UMass Lowell Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences!


Thanks for this opportunity!

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