A group of 7-year-old soccer players from Philadelphia’s The SWAG program became national champions this past weekend.
Riley Griffith, of Southwest Philadelphia; Eli Dixon of Hamilton, N.J.; Leonard McKenzie and Thomas Spangler of South Media, Pa. did an outstanding job in helping the SWAG defeat Lake Elite (of Miami, FL), 6-4, in the 3X3 National Championships at the Austin-Tindall Sports Complex in Orlando, FL.
The SWAG performed extremely well, outscoring their opponents, 64-8, in six games, with four of those six contests stopping early due to the “mercy rule” when one team reaches 12 goals.
“We are incredibly proud of these young men today. They dominated this tournament and showed the youth soccer community across the U.S. what we’re building in Philadelphia with The SWAG,” said The SWAG’s director of coaching, Nick Bibbs, in a statement.
Griffith, Dixon and Spangler traveled with their coaches Bibbs, Ryan Griffith, Riley’s father, on Tuesday, July 27, to compete in the Under 7 (2014) National Championship tournament.
The SWAG is a Philadelphia soccer program reaching more than 2,000 inner-city kids per year, designed to help encourage the city’s most vulnerable youth to develop a passion for soccer and lead them on a successful path to a healthier lifestyle, educational opportunities, and collegiate scholarships.
The SWAG is no-cost, 47-week per year annual soccer training program for young athletes ages 4-8 in some of Philadelphia’s most neglected African American and immigrant communities. The SWAG’s programming is centered around Philadelphia, where basketball and American football dominate the sports culture; North Philadelphia and West/Southwest Philadelphia.
The SWAG conducts regularly scheduled community-focused clinics known as Starter Days to introduce and increase interest in soccer to boys and girls between the ages of 4-8. During the two-hour free events, boys and girls learn new drills and experience a fun and engaging interactive session with experienced professional soccer coaches.
At the Starter Days, boys aged 4-8 who display exceptional aptitude may receive an invite to The SWAG Select for more regular, skills-focused training. Girls of similar talent may be referred to top girls’ clubs in the region.
The organization started as a pilot program in late 2018 to help identify, support, and invest in talent from City of Philadelphia, creating local superstars from Philadelphia’s most under-resourced areas by offering very early exposure to the sport with professional training.