For Luzy and her younger sister, growing up happy is easy. It is growing up safe, confident and healthy that is the challenge.

On the walk home from school, Luzy passes liquor stores and drunken people in the streets. “I get really scared. People are drunk and do really dumb things,” Luzy says uncomfortably. “We don’t really play in our neighborhood because our parents are worried something will happen to us,” she adds. So the girls stay inside, kicking a soccer ball back and forth in the family’s small linoleum-floored kitchen.

Luzy’s parents work hard: Her mom works from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and her dad works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. They want the girls to have fun and be active like other kids, but that’s not easy in their neighborhood.

Growing up in low-income communities often means growing up without sports and coaches to learn from. For Luzy, it means not having the opportunity to learn the important life lessons coaches teach kids: hard work, teamwork, leadership, self-discipline and perseverance.

But when Luzy connects with a Coaching Corps coach, things begin to change. On her first day in a park playing soccer, Luzy is nervous but excited. Parents cheer from the sidelines, the referees get ready mid-field, and the coach rounds Luzy and the eager girls up in a huddle. The coach calls out: “Are you wonderful, fabulous ladies?” The girls yell: “Oh, yeah!” Luzy brims with excitement and runs into position.

Whether Luzy’s team won or lost the game was not important. “The first thing I was taught was to never give up, just keep trying,” says Luzy.

It’s an important lesson from a coach that will shape Luzy’s life. She says, “Now that I’ve learned to play soccer, I’ve found something I’m good at.”

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