Rewards Patches for Youth Soccer-Player Masks Made Girls Willing to Keep Playing During Pandemic
I wanted to make wearing masks more fun, and at the same time encourage young girls to develop courage, confidence, and leadership on and off the soccer field.
January 11, 2021
Soccer and Girl Scouts have been a big part of my life, so when Covid limited previous ways of participating in both for most of 2020, I started to think about new ways to stay involved. I turned to earning my Girl Scout Gold Award through a project I called "Patching Together a Safe Return to Soccer." The idea was to better understand issues of health and safety in youth group sports, particularly during the pandemic, support girls' leadership development, encourage girls to stay active to promote their health and well-being, and help ensure a safe and fun return to girls' soccer.
With current requirements to wear a mask and remain distanced during soccer practice, some, for a variety of reasons, may be hesitant to participate. To help continue youth sports in our community, I wanted to make wearing masks more fun, and at the same time encourage young girls to develop courage, confidence, and leadership on and off the soccer field.
For my project, I worked with Santa Monica Region 20 AYSO and focused on four teams of the youngest age group of girls. I thought this age group may have a particularly hard time wearing masks, and, for someone like myself who has greatly benefited from playing soccer from a young age, I worried that if they decide not to play now, they may never come back.
Working with a team of others from santa monica high school, we made small patches with creative designs that could easily attach to the players' masks. In Girl Scouts, patches come in a wide variety of designs to represent different activities, events and programs you participate in.
The patches we made were distributed to the teams' coaches who could use them to recognize players for doing something positive to support their own development and their team. While we left it to the coaches to decide how to distribute them, the girls, for example, could earn a patch to put on their mask by mastering a new move or skill, showing leadership on the field, or being kind to another player.
Coaches were encouraged to recognize every player in a positive way at least once during the fall season. The patch designs included flowers and the letters AYSO. According to the coaches, the girls were particularly excited to collect all letters in AYSO for their masks. Coaches were also given blank patches to let the girls design their own.
We have needed to look for different ways to connect to others this past year, and there was particular joy in seeing these young girl soccer players staying active on the field, laughing, and proudly wearing the patches they had earned. I am hopeful that 2021 will bring our community back together in new ways to promote our health and well-being, including through youth sports.