In Asheville, a young girl whose goal is playing professional soccer can pursue that dream without ever leaving her hometown — thanks to the Asheville Splash. The Splash, now in its third season in the Women’s League of the United Soccer Leagues, boasts a number of homegrown players.
But last year, Splash Assistant Coach Stacey Enos and several local educators realized that some local girls need a little help in the dream department.
“I’m immersed in the soccer community and noticed that we were missing out on certain populations. We want soccer to be more inclusive and accessible. We want to create more opportunities,” Enos explained in a recent interview, pointing out how economic hardship and low self-esteem can limit a young girl’s vision of herself and her future.
With this in mind — and armed with a grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina — they created Go to Goal! The nonprofit organization runs a mentoring program that focuses on improving the athletic skills and boosting the self-images of girls ages 8-11.
“We’ve seen their athleticism grow,” says Enos. “Their teachers tell us that they’re playing soccer at recess, something only the boys usually do. These girls are stepping onto the pitch for the first time; it’s great.”
And besides gaining self-confidence and soccer skills, the girls are also putting more effort into academic achievement. “They understand the importance of school [for] their aspirations and dreams,” Enos reports.
But in order to continue helping the girls, the program itself now needs a little help from the community. On Saturday, June 28 at 6:15 p.m., the Splash will take on the Greensboro Twisters at Asheville’s Memorial Stadium; the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Go to Goal! The program, says Enos, now mentors about a dozen girls from Isaac Dickson Elementary School, and it’s been so successful that Go to Goal! now wants to expand it to reach out to more girls.
At the June 28 game, the Go to Goal! girls will take the field with the Asheville Splash and give a special skills demonstration to show off what they’ve learned.
Fans buying a special $12 ticket that day will get a free soda, a slice of pizza from Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, and a chance to win raffle prizes donated by Arsenal Athletics, the Doubletree Biltmore Hotel, and Wildwater Rafting. Proceeds from enhanced-ticket sales will benefit the Go to Goal! Foundation. (Fans will also have the option of buying a ticket at the regular price: $8 for adults, $6 for children.)
And who knows? You just might be helping the next Mia Hamm grab hold of a dream.
— Rebecca DeRosa