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Soccer program aims to help children with mental health

Kids without access to mental health care are getting the support they need from community partners.

SEATTLE — This might look like any other soccer practice, but the kids at this South Seattle field are learning skills that go far beyond the pitch.

“We decided to use soccer as the platform to teach social/emotional skills,” said Mark Fadool.

Mark Fadool is the clinical director at the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic. He developed this program with the help of the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club and the Nolan Premier Soccer Academy.

“The original need was for mental health support but we figured that kids, one: want to have fun, and two: being active is really good for their brains,” said Fadool.

The goal is to not just build better soccer players -- but to develop better people.

“Today's reflection is complementing your teammates,” said Fadool as he addressed his team. “So when you're playing today I want you to think about how you can complement your teammates. This is how we build a positive culture and this is what we stand for.”

Through this program, Mark has been able to reach kids like 11-year-old Yedidyah, who sometimes struggles to keep his emotions in check.

“This is where your frustration kills you. You're not helping your teammates,” said Fadool to Yedidyah.

“You just kicked it to the other team and you stood on this side of the field instead of going and getting it right? It's not terrible, right? You're going to learn. Go have fun.”

“It's helped me in the classroom like trying to interact with other people but I'm still kind of working on that,” said Yedidyah. “Trying to get better.”

“I think it's essential, especially these days,” said Fadool. “We see more and more kids really wrestling with anxiety and depression. If we don't do this type of work, it's only going to get worse in our area. This is the type of programming that is innovative and really handles a lot of the stressors.”

“It's nice to have people that don't care how much money they're getting or how much money we need to pay,” said Yedidyah. “They just care about developing us as human beings.”

“Everyone seems to be benefiting. Families have come up to us saying thank you so much,” said Fadool. “It's a free program. So, it's high-quality soccer that's absolutely free with a social/emotional component. How good is that?”

The program is provided year-round and open to players U8-U14.

You can help support the mission of the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic 

Watch Growing Wellness: An Odessa Brown Children's Clinic and Seattle Children's Special, Thu, Mar.7th from 7-8 PM on KING and KONG, or make a donation online today.

This story is sponsored by Seattle Children's.