Pure Game helps build character for children, gets support from Unite Health Share Ministries

A kid in the Pure Game program holds a soccer ball. Pure Game uses soccer to mentor kids, teaching them character.
A youngster in the Pure Game program holds a soccer ball. Pure Game uses soccer to mentor kids, teaching them character and leadership skills.
(Courtesy of Pure Game)

Distance learning came about as part of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

A perceived shortcoming of the method is its limitations on social development.

The classroom can supply opportunities for interaction, but there are also those who believe in kinesthetic learning.

Anthony Cummings believed that valuable lessons could be learned through soccer, which led to him joining the organization of Pure Game. With its character-education approach, Cummings feels that Pure Game can provide both mentorship and empowerment for youth.

“Nowadays, when the world is filled with so much fear, we try to provide a positive mentorship [and] relationship with youth, so they don’t feel as alone, and then … empower them,” said Cummings, the director of strategic partnerships for Pure Game. “They don’t have to be the best soccer player. You don’t have to learn how to kick a certain way. You are loved, you are seen, and you are supported.”

Cummings sees physical activity as a way to reshape the delivery of important life lessons. Character values such as respect, responsibility and humility are taught in group settings, as well as through one-on-one intentionality, with “field champions,” or staff members who run the activities.

Kids in the Pure Game program practice self-control through an activity called "walking soccer."
Kids in the Pure Game program practice self-control through an activity called “walking soccer.” Participants are challenged to walk through the game of soccer against each other.
(Courtesy of Pure Game)

“I think we’re introducing language to them that they may not be getting at home,” Cummings said. “One of the activities that we do … is called, ‘STAR’ — Stop, Think, Act, Reflect.”

Different games are played with the kids, sometimes with a word of the day implemented throughout the process.

Pure Game has worked with several local schools, too. In Costa Mesa, the nonprofit organization has worked with Adams, Pomona, Rea and Wilson elementary schools.

Prior to the coronavirus, Pure Game was serving 7,000 to 8,000 kids in a school year and worked with 64 schools in and around Orange County, Cummings added. Roughly 95 programs were ongoing during recess, lunchtime and after school.

Rea Elementary Principal Duane Cox said that the school is entering the third year of its working relationship with Pure Game. Before the pandemic, students would meet with their field champion during their grade’s respective recess period two or three times a week.

Rea Elementary School is one of the schools that Pure Game works with to teach character and leadership skills to youth.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“As a principal, you have to recognize that kids are going to flourish in different kinds of environments or different kinds of activities,” Cox said. “I certainly have students on campus who love sports, who excel at sports, who gravitate toward that, and that’s an area where they show their brilliance.

“If they have that opportunity to connect with other kids, to connect with a Pure Game coach, the likelihood is they’ll come back in the classroom and feel better about themselves and do better throughout their school day. That’s a huge help.”

Cox also pointed out the character-building aspect, saying that the program can be just as beneficial to children willing to take a risk and try new things.

A partnership was recently formed between Pure Game and faith-based Unite Health Share Ministries (UHSM). Christopher Jin, the president of UHSM, shares a faith with Tony Everett, the founder of Pure Game, and he liked the organization’s values. Jin also said soccer was a beautiful game because it only requires a ball to play.

“Once I started hearing about what [Everett] was doing and how his program was affecting children, the difference it was really making, not just between the physical activity, [but] giving these children these leadership skills, it really resonated with me,” Jin said. “We decided to partner with them and offer different types of resources for them.”

Among those resources, UHSM is offering telehealth services for on-demand healthcare to Pure Game staff, which include triaging COVID-19 cases and ordering tests for those showing symptoms.

The healthcare sharing ministry is also providing financial backing to help Pure Game run additional programs in the turbulent times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and it is raising awareness of the organization’s mission through marketing, social media and public relations support, Jin added.

Unite Health Share Ministries also partnered with the Orange County Soccer Club to bring about the Community Corner, allowing nonprofit organizations to apply for tickets to the team’s home matches.

“Being that now there is no fans at the home games, it’s a little bit different,” Jin said. “Now, it’s kind of pivoted to what is called a ‘Fan of the Match’ promotion.

“Fans are encouraged to take a photo repping your OCSC gear, and they’re supposed to use the hashtag #FanOfTheMatch, and then #UHSM, and they’re supposed to tag OCSC, and they have a chance to win an OCSC fan pack.”

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