Olympic great Felix Sanchez visits Laureus sports project in Seattle

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December 3, 2013  

 

Two-time Olympic champion Felix Sanchez was in Seattle today to announce his support for an innovative program that trains coaches to work in sports-based youth projects in disadvantaged areas of the city.

 

One in five children in South Seattle are classified as overweight or obese, while 19% of all youth live in poverty. More than 130 different languages are spoken across South Seattle and the city’s 98118 zip code was quoted by the Census as “the most diverse zip code in the country” in terms of languages spoken.

 

Felix Sanchez, who won the Olympic gold medal in 400 metres hurdles in 2004 and 2012, which won him the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award, said: “Sport is an important tool for bringing people together, empowering them and positively shaping society.  A diverse community like the one in South Seattle needs coaches who are able to mentor and positively impact today’s youth, who face issues such as obesity and poverty.

 

“As budgets for school-based programs decrease, it is essential for initiatives like this to invest in training and support for coaches in sport for development to fill these gaps and support the community’s youth.”

 

The charitable Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz USA, supports projects to improve the lives of youth through the power of sport by investing in a unique national coaching and mentoring program called Coach Across America, created by the non-profit organization Up2Us.

 

Up2Us has placed eight coaches in the Seattle area: four are supported by Laureus at the programs Age-Up, Washington Youth Soccer Association, Skate Like a Girl and The Service Board; four others are supported by AmeriCorps at SOS Outreach, America SCORES Seattle and the George Pocock Rowing Foundation. Over 3,000 youth are impacted by programming made possible through this partnership.

 

The Seattle Parks Teens Youth Sports provided the venue for young people to play Ultimate Frisbee and Felix Sanchez joined some of the participants at the project, showing his skills.

The program offers youth an alternative to becoming involved in juvenile crime and violence, while promoting the arts and providing job opportunities and a learning center to improve education. 

 

The projects goals are: to build community among women across boundaries of age, sexuality, socio-economic class, race, and geography; address issues of oppression, identity and health through a social justice framework in a supportive and community-oriented space; nurture youth leadership and youth-adult partnerships; and improve access to health and physical activity among low income youth.

 

Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman Edwin Moses, himself a double Olympic champion in the same 400 meter hurdles event in which Sanchez competes, said: “We believe in the transformational power of sport as a tool for social good. Today’s coaches go beyond the traditional sense of the term ‘coach’. They are mentors, community organisers and mediators. Investing in proper training and offering support for these coaches is vital to sports-based youth development.”

 

Sanchez, who was 34 when he won his second Olympic gold medal in London last year, said:Winning the Laureus Comeback Award means the world to me, especially knowing how hard it is to do this in athletics. Coming back is very rare and for about ten years I wanted to win a Laureus Award. Having a legend like Edwin Moses, who also ran in the 400 hurdles, as part of the Laureus Academy, it just means that much more to me.”

 

In 2012, Laureus USA announced its support of the Up2Us’ Coach Across America program, backed by $1.3 million from Mercedes-Benz USA, an important catalyst in this investment in the nation’s underserved youth.

These efforts contributed to the training and placement of 250 coaches in sports-based youth development projects in five U.S. cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans. This year Mercedes-Benz USA committed additional funding, totaling $2 million, and added new cities, including Boston, Denver, San Francisco and now Seattle.  To date, the programme has impacted almost 100,000 young people in a total of 15 cities.