Ireland Street FoundationNon profit home of the Sports Equity Project
IRELAND STREET FOUNDATION
(ISF) pays homage to where this all began: 438 Ireland Street, Williamsburg, VA. We met on the campus of The College of William and Mary, and our shared experiences continue to shape and influence our work.
We also run Gradum, and as this business grew, and we began sending more and more players to universities around the country, we realized the doors that sports can open for young athletes and the life-changing opportunities they can provide. They can be a vehicle to get an education, make connections, travel the world. It can set you up for future, and generational success.
As a society, we desperately want to believe the fallacy that sports are a meritocracy and the “cream will rise to the top.” The reality is that the resources (monetary and otherwise) necessary to participate in youth soccer are rising significantly and the geographical demands of training and competition are widening, creating more barriers to entry for low income families. For a sport that is global, that has birthed some of the best players in the world from the poorest towns, American soccer is rapidly becoming a country club sport.
We started doing some digging, initially finding that in our hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, it costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 annually to provide a youth soccer player with the best opportunity to be recognized by a collegiate coach. With the poverty rate in Charlottesville hovering around 25% ($25,465 for a family of 4 with 2 kids, $20,231 for a single parent with 2 kids) you do that math… It’s not a lack of talent, or effort, or “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” It’s a lack of investment, a lack of imagination on behalf of public and private organizations, a lack of commitment to equitable distribution of resources that’s holding these players back. Plainly, if you don’t have money, you don’t have a chance. You’re better off being bad at sports and rich, than talented, driven, and poor.
We started the Sports Equity Project to change that narrative. Time to invest in our young athletes and give them the same opportunity as their peers to not only enjoy fulfilling sports careers, but leverage their ability and hard work to create generational change for themselves and their family members.