On Tuesday, October 19th, Final Third Foundation (F3) and South Side Early Learning (SSEL) launched its Soccer & Literacy Pilot Program at their Reeb Avenue location. SSEL, a nonprofit organization, believes in providing a holistic, high-quality education to its early learners. The foundation of SSEL’s approach is the utilization of classroom practices grounded in the latest research in child development and early childhood education.
F3’s Director of Education, Leiah Groom-Thomas, is working directly with Jaclyn Dynia, Senior Director of Innovation and Research at The Center for Childhood Innovation at SSEL, to create and provide a world class soccer and literacy program to its 2-5 year-old students. Max Rosenthal, who has background in coaching at the youngest ages, and F3’s Director of Environmental Awareness, and is also helping drive the program forward.
With an expertise in early childhood education, Groom-Thomas is very excited about the program saying, “Coach Max and I were impressed with the level of engagement from the first two sessions! Our goal was to get young children excited about reading and soccer and familiarize them with the way our program is structured. Establishing a routine with young children will help facilitate learning on a range of emergent skills highlighted in our program, from executive functioning to alphabet knowledge to social-emotional development. Research indicates that early childhood (birth through age 5) is a critical time for all children, and our program utilizes targeted instruction and opportunities to apply this knowledge in practice, which reinforces learning.”
The program is utilizing three soccer-related children's books throughout the six weeks of soccer and reading instruction sessions:
Dr. Dynia says, “The Soccer and Literacy program provides a unique experience for the littles at South Side Early Learning. This pilot project will inform the development of the curriculum, provide feasibility data for the program, and examine gains in children's language, literacy, and self-regulation skills.”
This is a natural fit for Final Third Foundation, as it already provides an early childhood soccer program each season for its recreational soccer program, Columbus East Soccer Association (CESA). The CESA Tiny Tots program has an underlying philosophy and curriculum. Each season coaches focus on children learning basic soccer skills using a variety of techniques to engage participants, which include using colors, numbers, and specific words and phrases.
F3 hopes to develop the program with SSEL and provide it to the organization's four centers by the Spring of 2022.
In May 2021, Final Third Foundation and Galacticos FC formalized their partnership. F3 will support Galacticos to provide affordable programming to all ages. The Foundation will connect with grantors, sponsors, and donors to help pay for leagues, tournaments and enrichment programs.
This Spring season 40 players from Galacticos FC participated in the F3's partner recreational program, Columbus East Soccer Association.
Final Third Foundation and Galacticos FC formed this partnership with the goal to help support what Galacticos FC is already set out to achieve - uplift the Latino community in Columbus through sport, specifically soccer.
Martin Ramirez, Head of Galacticos FC, said “I have loved working with Benji and Final Third Foundation. Many players participated in CESA this Spring. It has been a great experience. I know it’s just the start though with F3. I am excited to see where we can take Galacticos together.“
Ben Levey, Executive Director of F3 said, “This is one of the reasons why F3 exists. To support community leaders who are already doing great work. Martin is definitely one of those amazing leaders making a positive impact in his community. This is a long-term partnership with Galacticos that will hopefully help their program advance to the next level. F3 is here to assure that Galacticos participants are provided affordable programming throughout the year. We also hope in the near future to provide our soccer and enrichment programs to Galacticos FC participants and the community as well.”
To learn more about the program and to donate to Galacticos FC click here: F3 Partner Program
On Monday, June 15th, Final Third Foundation's Virtual Soccer & Literacy eight-week summer program began. Three times per week, F3 works with youth participants in the Urban Resurrection Community Development summer camp.
For the past six weeks, the children have been fully engaged in the footwork and soccer skill exercises that last for 30 minutes each day. Afterwards, Leiah Groom-Thomas, F3 Director of Education, reads the Jamie Johnson series novel, Born to Play, and engages with the children using the Born to Play Teaching curriculum.
CEFC Coaches Hold Virtual book Club & Skills sessions for entire season
In March 2020, the soccer season was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. F3 and CEFC staff quickly responded by providing virtual skills sessions and a book club two times per week for each age group for the Spring Season.
Many players also participated in book projects and soccer skill competitions. To view the skills competitions you can visit the F3 YouTube Channel
F3 is partnering with Columbus Women's Soccer Team, Columbus Eagles FC, to support girls and women locally and internationally through soccer. The campaign, “Supporting Women Globally”, will support the Likoni Community Football League, an F3 Project based in Likoni, Mombasa, Kenya, and provide soccer programming directed toward young girls locally, in Columbus, OH.
The Likoni Community Football League (LCFL), founded in 2011 by F3’s Executive Director, Benjamin Levey, is a sports and development organization that provides a youth soccer and women’s soccer league in one of the poorest areas of Mombasa, Kenya. The Eagles plan to help collect equipment for the organization and assist with fundraising efforts in 2020. The equipment and dollars raised will go directly to support the LCFL’s Women’s teams and league. Last year, about 400 children and 160 girls and young women participate in LCFL programs.
F3, which also oversees Columbus East FC, a youth soccer club, will also work with the Eagles to hold girls-specific soccer clinics and camps. Camps and clinics will be run by Columbus East FC coaching staff and Eagles players. The goals for both organizations are to excite more girls locally about the game of soccer and establish a group of young women and role models for girls to look up to and support.
“We are very excited about the F3 Soccer & Literacy program, and even more excited to add Leiah Groom-Thomas to our team. Leiah brings the quality needed to allow this program to become what we originally envisaged - a world-class soccer and education program that maximizes each child’s time with us, ” says Benjamin Levey, Executive Director of F3.
Leiah is in the final stages of receiving her PhD in Reading and Literacy in Early and Middle Childhood from The Ohio State University. Her research expertise includes young children’s literacy and comprehension skill development. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Leiah was a teacher at Grace Christian School in Blacklick, Ohio where she also assisted in organizing and operating various camp programs.
"It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with a foundation with incredible goals for the community and children across the Columbus area. I look forward to utilizing my teaching background and research training to design F3's Soccer & Literacy program and to see where we can take it in the future,” says Groom-Thomas.
F3 is currently fundraising for the after-school program. If you would like to make a contribution directly to the program please click here: Soccer & Literacy at Eakin Elementary
This morning I woke up to a grant proposal written by Zenah Athman Iddi for a UK-based organization, Gurls Talk. Zenah is LCFL's recent hire and Girls Program Project Officer.