CHICAGO (March 9, 2020) – Chicago Fire FC announced today that Chicago Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. Program (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth, Soccer) will expand to 40 Chicago Public Schools in 2020, serving nearly 1000 youth in underserved communities. That number is up from 30 schools in 2019 and eight schools in its inaugural year of 2013.
More than 40% of public school students in Chicago do not graduate high school, and nearly 70 students drop out of school every day. The Chicago Fire Football Club is looking to change these grim statistics through the Club’s innovative after-school soccer program, P.L.A.Y.S., a 10-week program integrating soccer with social and emotional learning character skills to ultimately improve participants’ academic performance, while providing a safe and supportive environment to engage in soccer. P.L.A.Y.S. participants have had a decrease in behavior infractions, number of disciplinary incidents, unexcused absences, suspensions and failing grades. There has also been a 50% drop in crime near program spaces, which is significant given that 60% of P.L.A.Y.S. schools were in the top 20 most violent neighborhoods in Chicago.
P.L.A.Y.S. will run through the end of May, with participants engaging in five out-of-school hours of programming per week, plus three game days over the course of 10 weeks. Participants will also attend Chicago Fire FC’s home game on May 9 against Inter Miami CF at Soldier Field (2:00 p.m. CT on ABC and WVIV Latino Mix 93.5 FM).
Since the program’s inception in 2013, nearly 4,000 girls and boys in third through fifth grade in underserved Chicago communities have benefited from the P.L.A.Y.S. Program, playing more than 200,000 hours of soccer and helping to improve their academics.
The Fire have been awarded four major national or international community-focused awards since 2015: the 2019 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, the 2018 Community Award Presented by Facebook at the Leaders Sports Awards (London, UK), the 2016 Beyond Sport Team of the Year (London, UK) and the 2015 Robert Wood Johnson Sport Team of the Year (Princeton, N.J.).
Additional information on the Chicago Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. Program can be found at www.chicagofirefc.com/playsprogram.