Monday, April 03, 2006

PASSBACK: Because Soccer Is More Than Just A Game

The main thing I dislike about my Blog is that I never have enough time. I never have enough time to write all of the things I would like to say about the various NGOs out there in the world doing great things.

So it is that I must apologize to Passback for not having the time to say all of the things I would like to say about them. Also, I must apologize to my friends in the U.K. and elsewhere who call the game "Football;" but since this article is about an organization that calls the game "Soccer" I will use that term as well with no slight intended. And as Puck would say: "Think but this and all is mended…"

The Passback program collects used soccer gear that is still usable and sends it to teams and organizations that could not otherwise afford it. These organizations often can not even afford the most basic soccer equipment.

This effort started with one box of soccer gear being sent to a family friend and it has grown over the years to a program that has donated some 30,000 pieces of gear.

The founders, Brendan and Mike Moylan love soccer. They also operate Eurosport, which they also founded. In 1989 the two Moylans had an opportunity to give back to the game of soccer, which they love, and they seized the opportunity. In 1989 a "family friend came into the old Eurosport store looking for some gear to send to his daughter, a Peace Corps volunteer working with children in Malawi." While they were looking for soccer gear they could send to Malawi, the Moylan brothers realized that they had "closets full of their old soccer gear that they no longer used but was too good to throw out." So the Moylan brothers boxed up a package and sent it off to their friend's daughter. But that was just the beginning. It stood to reason that if they had closets full of soccer gear, there must be other players out there whose garages, closets and basements packed with old usable gear as well. Recognizing that there is a world-wide need in the soccer community for such gear, the Moylan brothers created the Passback program.

Because it began its program by shipping internationally, Passback was traditionally known as an international organization helping organizations in poor and developing countries. But in recent years, increased donations have made it possible for Passback to send soccer gear to many groups in the U.S. as well. And now, the largest pool of recipients are in the U.S. About 40% of Passback's donations went to U.S. organizations such as middle schools and high schools, recreation leagues in 2001.

While much of its donated gear goes to organizations in the U.S., a significant amount of gear still goes to developing countries.

In Malawi Passback was able to support a "Shoes for Work' program" by donating soccer gear. There, the recipients of the gear participated in specific projects that benefited the community as well as long-term conservation of Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve in order to be eligible to receive soccer cleats.

Another organization in Malawi has tied its soccer team to AIDS education in the community. In that program AIDS' education usually takes place at the half and at the end of the game.

On their web site, Passback says that "You are eligible for the Passback program if you are part of a school, charitable organization, or a community soccer league in an impoverished area."

As you can imagine, Passback gets lots of support from Eurosport, but it also receives a significant amount of help from the U.S. Soccer Foundation and The Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Because of the participation of these Partner / Sponsors, Passback is able to donate gear to U.S. recipients on a large-scale basis. "In the summer of 2001 Passback was able to donate $43,000 worth of new and used gear to 26 different Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation. Most of these Clubs were either starting soccer programs or had recently offered soccer to their participants. Almost all the Clubs served poor or needy areas, and needed personal gear for the players."

The U.S. Soccer Foundation has been instrumental in bringing Passback to Major League Soccer games around the country this year. Players, teams and fans bring their old gear to the Major League Soccer stadiums on specific Passback days and the Major League Soccer team in turn donates the gear to a local organization. A very innovative and efficient way to marshal resources. The Passback web site states that: "In its first season, Passback was able to donate more than 1,000 different shoes, shorts, bags, jerseys, and other gear to local teams from its Major League Soccer appearances."

Finally, a word about Eurosport. (There is a great deal more I could say, but demands of time have forced me to delete a whole page full of notes.) Eurosport is actually "Sports Endeavors, Inc." but most people know it as "Eurosport." Its mission statement is: "To be the world's leading authentic grassroots soccer company, building strong relationships in a vibrant, creative and ethical environment. To inform, inspire and innovate."

This Hillsborough, North Carolina, company, through its own efforts and the further efforts of Passback, the Moylan family has made a great and generous contribution to the global community - because to many, Soccer is More Than Just A Game.

Read more about Passback here.

No comments: