Goethe Elementary in Logan Square is home to one of Urban Initiatives’ largest teams. With forty players on the roster—thirty Work to Play participants and ten Take the Lead Team Captains—there is no shortage of personalities on display at practices and games. One player who consistently stands out is a third grader named Damarion.
The fall 2014 season was Damarion’s first with Urban Initiatives. Like many players, he joined his school’s Work to Play team to spend more time with his friends, yet at practices his sociability often proved disruptive. He rarely followed the team’s rules, he constantly talked when coaches and Team Captains were giving instructions, and he pushed other players during drills and scrimmages. The consequences of his actions led to him being sidelined for a game.
From the very earliest practices, Damarion’s coaches saw the need for one-on-one intervention. “We asked him to imagine that he was the coach and that we were disrupting him when he was trying to explain the game,” Coach Abreu said. “We highlighted how when he allowed the coaches to focus on the team, the practices were much more fun for everyone.”
As the weeks went on, the talks got shorter and the changes in Damarion’s behavior were evident. He shifted his attention to being an active participant and a good teammate. Damarion’s classroom performance also improved. From the very beginning of the season, his teachers reported that he didn’t always accept guidance during lessons, and he wasn’t very respectful of his classmates. By the season’s end, though, his weekly Work to Play teacher evaluations improved. His behavior was so much better that his coaches voted to include Damarion in the annual Soccer Ball video as a reward.
Damarion’s coaches aren’t the only ones excited about his improvement. His mom is also thrilled. “He’s always been a sweet kid,” explains Damarion’s mom, “but since he started with Urban Initiatives I’ve seen a huge change in the way he interacts with his friends and his teammates. He’s becoming a better person, and I think he sees that, too.”