Special Olympics Singapore athletes showed off their football abilities in a clinic under the Singapore America Soccer Exchange on 5 December.
The Exchange is part of the U.S. Embassy’s broader sports diplomacy initiative to foster greater mutual understanding between the youth of the United States and Singapore. Working with Football Association of Singapore (FAS), the program is specifically tailored for girls to promote women’s empowerment through sports and inspire them through soccer.
Under a grant from the U.S. state department through The International Center, four former U.S. National Women’s soccer players conducted the weeklong clinics in Singapore. The coaches are: Janine Szpara, Anna Shortt, Karen Willoughby and Val Henderson.
The Coaches inspired youths with their infectious energy, leading several soccer clinics for girls aged 12-18 at various Singapore institutions and secondary schools. They also visited the AG Home for Teens, and the Jamiyah Orphanage, as part of a community outreach program.
Coach Val Henderson shares her experience with the athletes:
“This week, three other American soccer coaches and I have had the privilege of working with girls and young women from different schools and Junior Colleges all over Singapore. Our aim has been to share our experiences and knowledge of the game, to encourage them to continue to play the universal sport despite not having the greatest support from their families and culture. We’ve taught that soccer (or football) not only fosters a healthy lifestyle, but it also teaches so many skills that are applicable to life: confidence, teamwork, leadership, working towards a goal.
On Wednesday we planned to work with boys and girls from Special Olympics Singapore. We faced difficult weather: 90 degrees on a hot turf, a potential thunderstorm looming. I imagined that we might have to change our program.
But what I found in this group was a bunch of coachable, enthusiastic, and happy young athletes. Despite the weather, they were giving their all and having a great time doing it. They had big smiles on their faces (unless they were frowning with determination). They high-fived and cheered each other on, worked on victory dances, and celebrated the smaller accomplishments of knocking over a cone with a pass and hitting the ball with laces instead of toes.
Everything our program embodies, I found it in the athletes of the Special Olympics: positive energy, true enjoyment of the sport, focusing on what you CAN control rather than what you can’t. I had a wonderful experience and feel grateful to have been a small part of the program. I just hope we were able to have as positive an impact on these young athletes as they had on us.”
Check out the video highlights below: