Rosa, the youngest of ten, began selling food on the streets of Mexico at the age of nine to help provide for her family. For fun, she indulged in the game of basketball. “I played on the streets with my friends. But first I had to finish my chores.” Her brothers disapproved. “Women didn’t play sports and that was the rule. A girl belonged at home, not outside playing sports. And let me tell you, not only is it wrong but it’s an injustice.”

Rosa raised three kids in East Oakland, California, a neighborhood dominated by violence, drugs, and gangs. “I was always alert but very concerned about my kids. I heard gunshots and I never felt secure.” Nonetheless, she was able to forge a better life for herself in the United States that looked nothing like her childhood in Mexico. “I’ve learned to break my family’s cycle. One that only allows a woman to tend to her family’s needs.”

She learned about sports teams by watching kids play in local parks and was motivated to ask her friends from school and work about how to get her kids involved. Overcoming language barriers to get the information and navigating long work hours made it difficult – but her determination to offer her kids an alternative to street life took precedence and before long, they were enrolled in community sports teams. “My kids were busy, active, and off the streets.”

Critical to the success of any child’s sports participation is parental involvement, and Rosa invested all of her off-time on the field with her kids. Today, she loves her role as team manager because she gets to spend more time with her kids while enjoying a great sense of accomplishment. But Rosa’s favorite part about team sports is attending her children’s games. “I can celebrate with them and this makes them feel special.”

If she ever doubted the power of sports, her personal story has confirmed her beliefs. Her eldest son never got involved in sports activities. “He didn’t enjoy sports. I think that is why he struggled and simply lacked the same interest in school as his brother and sister.” In sharp contrast, her youngest son has flourished. “When my son was voted captain, I saw a change in him that I’ve never seen before. He wanted to get better, fitter, and stronger.” In addition to her son’s new found confidence, her eldest daughter, an avid soccer player and a former member of the UC Berkeley Women’s Soccer Team recently graduated from the prestigious university with a degree in sociology.

Rosa believes that sports are the foundation for a better future because they’ve helped her children discover and exceed their potential. “Crime and drugs surround the lives of our kids but if we engage them in sports, they will be off the streets. Soccer fostered my children’s development into more confident and disciplined individuals. Sports inspired them to set goals for high school and beyond and this is more than anything I could ask for.”

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