Four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson visited youth at Soccer Without Borders in Oakland on Sept. 17 as part of a national initiative that addresses the importance of quality afterschool sports program coaches serving as mentors to underserved youth in the community.
Johnson visited youth on behalf of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA (Laureus USA), a charitable organization that supports projects in the U.S. to improve the lives of youth through the power of sports. Laureus USA includes 46 of the greatest athletes in the world, using sports to promote social change. Among the athletes involved (part of the Laureus World Sports Academy) are Johnson, Marcus Allen, Tony Hawk, Monica Seles, Gary Player and Edwin Moses, the foundation’s chairman.
“We know that kids participating in sports are more confident in themselves,” Johnson said. “Sports, as we all know, is an extremely powerful tool to help young people learn valuable lessons in life. As members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, we all benefited from sports. So it’s a real passion for us to be able to introduce kids to sports and help them learn lessons that will equip them the tools necessary to deal with everyday life."
Homicide is the leading cause of death among Oakland youth. From 2009 to 2013, 31 Oakland public school students ages 11-19 were killed across the city – the majority by gunfire.
Laureus USA, in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), the company and its dealers, addressed the importance of afterschool sports programs through their investment in a unique national coaching and mentoring program called Coach Across America (CAA), created by the non-profit organization Up2Us.
Thanks to funding made possible by Laureus USA, Coach Across America trained quality afterschool sports program coaches, who will be placed in local youth sports programs throughout the Bay Area. The projects where they will be placed include: Soccer Without Borders (Oakland), East Oakland Boxing Association, America SCORES Bay Area (San Francisco), LIFT-Levantate (San Rafael) and Oakland Strokes.
Last year, Laureus USA announced its support of Up2Us’ CAA coaches nationwide, backed by $1.3 million in support from MBUSA, that served as an important catalyst in this widespread investment in the nation’s underserved youth. These efforts contributed to the training and placement of 250 CAA coaches in sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods in five U.S. cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans.
This year, Laureus USA has been re-visiting the five cities, checking in on the children’s progress and have launch programs in new cities, including Boston and now the Bay Area. Programs in additional cities will be launched later this year.
If you would like to donate to Laureus USA, log on to www.laureususa.com and click “donate.”