Physical activity is important in the healthy development of children. Most of us know this, but children are less active now than ever before. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education notes that only one in three children are physically active every day.
Increased physical activity delivers physiological, psychological and social benefits. This is especially important during the developmental years, and it carries forward into adulthood. This latter factor is borne out by organizations like the American Heart Association, which indicates that increased physical activity leads to increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, along with other health benefits.
Seacoast United, founded in 1992 by Paul Willis, began with a simple mission—to advance the physical and social well-being of youth and young adults through sports like soccer. For the past 22 years, this organization has been true to that mission, one that has been getting young people up and off the couch and onto athletic fields in New Hampshire (and now, Maine). They’ve recently expanded into other sports, also.
According to James Peterson, director of sales and marketing for Seacoast United, Willer’s vision was for Seacoast to be both an exclusive soccer training program, but also an inclusive one. What this means is that while there are a myriad of opportunities for highly-skilled players to play at the upper echelons of competition, Seacoast will never turn anyone away from their programs due to economics or if they aren’t an elite skill-level player, which is unique for a program like this one.
“Seacoast started with just two youth teams, and now, we have more than 5,000 athletes enrolled in our various programs,” said Peterson. “We’ve also branched out from soccer and are now offering team sports like baseball, softball, field hockey, and lacrosse.”
Peterson mentioned that while the focus is always on getting kids introduced to soccer (and other sports), the sports programming has continued growing and evolving.
“We now have select, elite, and professional level teams,” Peterson said. “Our summer college league (minor league) team is a nationally-recognized program. Last year, they won their league, which is part of the Premier Development League (PDL),” he said.
Peterson mentioned that Seacoast affiliates itself with outstanding coaches.
“50 percent of our staff has international experience,” Peterson added.
Peterson himself came to Seacoast after a stint with Oxford United, a premiere club program in Great Britain.
He talked about the important life lessons that sports offers those who choose to participate, like the “three P’s.”
“Sports is a great tool for young people to learn about teamwork, discipline, dealing with adversity—all things that are important for success in life.”
According to Peterson, Seacoast also has a significant number of players progressing up through their ranks.
“We had a case study done that indicated that 60 percent of our junior academy players went to our premiere and select division teams,” said Peterson.
Seacoast isn’t just a New Hampshire-based program any longer. While they have a state-of-the-art 70,000-square-foot indoor facility in Hampton and a four-field outdoor complex in Epping, they’ve expanded their soccer and baseball programming into southern Maine, as well as now having Seacoast affiliates in Portland, Topsham, and Bangor.
The Seacoast Foundation holds fundraising and charity events to support the overall goals and programming of Seacoast United. Much of the funding generated each year provides scholarships for athletes who may not be able to afford to participate with town club teams, or go on to elite level competitions. This includes traveling to national and international tournaments.
Peterson mentioned that they hold two major fundraisers each year.
“We have our annual soccer-a-thon, which takes place over a 24-hour period in April. We start games at 4:00 pm on Friday and these go continuously through Saturday at 4:00,” said Peterson. “These take place at our indoor facility in Hampton and the fields in Epping. We raised $70,000 in 2014,” he said.
Peterson added that Seacoast included participants from the Special Olympics in this year’s soccer-a-thon.
“They has such a great time and it was gratifying to have them participating with us.”
Another fundraiser Peterson mentioned was their Annual Gala held at the beautiful and historic Wentworth-by-the-Sea, in New Castle, New Hampshire. This is hosted by Ocean Properties, a business sponsor for Seacoast.
“All the proceeds from this go to our scholarship fund,” said Peterson.
All three Provider Power company’s , support Seacoast United’s Foundation through our Power To Help Initiative. When enrolling with ENH Power, Electricity Maine or Provider Power Mass customers select from a list of non-profit partners and we make a contribution to that organization.
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