Navigating a virtual spring season and summer camp

At DC SCORES we teach poet-athletes resilience and how to adapt to change. This spring, those lessons took on special meaning, as DC SCORES took on the challenge presented by COVID-19.

Although the Spring SCORES season officially kicked off in early March as usual, by mid-March our team was working remotely, schools began to close, and it was clear that this would be a season unlike any other. Determined to make sure that poet-athletes felt safe, secure, hopeful and connected to their teams despite schools being physically closed, we quickly adapted both programming and work into fully virtual experiences.

In less than two weeks, we pivoted from our planned in-person spring season and launched SCORES at Home, an online series of soccer and writing activities (all made available in both English and Spanish) designed to keep poet-athletes’ minds and bodies active while DC was under mandatory lockdown. Our staff and coaches quickly learned to coach and mentor via Zoom, Slack, Instagram Live, Microsoft Teams, and other tech, enabling us to connect with kids at a time when they most need the stability that their SCORES team can provide.

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As the confusion and fear of March gave way to the isolation of April, DC SCORES coaches were the glue holding their teams together. More than 100 coaches from 55 sites spent over 1,100 hours engaging their poet-athletes this spring. As a result, we were able to consistently engage with a substantial majority of our poet-athletes during the spring season, despite schools remaining physically closed. As a Leckie Education Campus coach said, “It’s good to see that the students miss soccer and writing. DC SCORES has such a positive impact on the kids that they look forward to actually engaging in virtual conversations.” In gratitude, prominent coaches and poets, along with our partners Timber Pizza and Busboys and Poets, banded together to thank DC SCORES coaches for going above and beyond in service to their kids and community.

Unable to gather for our annual One Night One Goal celebration at Audi Field this spring, we instead connected with the broader community with Our Words Our City LIVE, a broadcast of the most recent Studio Theatre poetry showcase, mixed in with “live” appearances from stars of D.C. United, the Washington Spirit and the local poetry community. Over 2,100 people tuned in to see poet-athletes from the past, present and future of DC SCORES share powerful performances – many of which were even more poignant in light of these rapidly changing times.

As spring rolls into summer, our goal remains the same – keep kids feeling safe, supported, connected, and hopeful during these uncertain times. Since in-person camps are not yet permitted under DC’s reopening guidelines, summer camps are going virtual. SCORES at Home Summer Camps will start on Monday, June 22nd and conclude on Friday, July 24th. This special edition of camp is open to all kids in rising grades 1-9, includes a combination of guided activities and live sessions, and is completely FREE. Camp writing activities will have a special emphasis on racial equity, encouraging kids to share their thoughts, fears, feelings, and hopes in light of the recent tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and far too many other black people in our country. SCORES at Home Summer Camps were created with SCORES participants in-mind (emphasizing our values of teamwork, leadership, and commitment), but are appropriate for, and open to, all kids, even those outside of DC. To help make sure all campers have everything they need to fully participate in the camp, the DC SCORES and D.C. United staff have spent this week packing over 550 summer camp kits (that include soccer balls, jump ropes, camp shirts, cones, pencils and sharpeners, and more) to mail campers.

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While this has been an incredibly trying time for all, DC SCORES’ commitment to provide safe spaces and opportunities for our poet-athletes to raise their voices and act to drive positive change has only gotten stronger. In fact, for our entire 25 year existence, DC kids have leveraged DC SCORES’ poetry and service-learning program components to publicly speak up about and advocate for racial justice and police reform. Case in point – last fall, the Jefferson Middle School Academy DC SCORES team wrote and performed a poem titled “POLICE BRUTALITY”. The poem speaks for itself:

Police brutality
The one thing people don’t see coming—or do we?
The Red and Blue lights—
Should be for help but really bring horror
Too many people are dying
Big chunks of those are innocent!
Even if someone reaches for their pocket
POP! One life gone…
This is the time where this needs to stop.

Officers should be trained to do what’s right
If not, more people will die
Now is the time to put up a fight.
Now is the time to put up a fight.
NOW is the time to put up a fight!

As we navigate the continually changing landscape wrought by the pandemic and racial injustices, the lessons we’ve learned during this most unique spring have only strengthened our resolve to ensure that the voice of every child in DC is heard, and that they all have a safe, supportive team to call their own.

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