The Encouragement Ball: A Soccer Ball that Makes a Difference

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Author: Danielle Zahn, Pure Game Field Champion and Research and Development Coordinator

The Encouragement Ball. A classic symbol of Pure Game, well-known by our students, and a highlight for all who have earned one. For those unfamiliar, the popular Encouragement Ball is a staple of Pure Game’s programs. At the end of each program rotation, several students are selected by their Field Champion to be presented with an Encouragement Ball. However, not just any student is chosen. Those selected are being highlighted for their exceptional demonstration of hard work and growth throughout the program, and an active understanding and application of Pure Game’s character education lessons.

Pure Game’s first set of Encouragement Balls were handed out to deserving students just over six years ago! When asked about the inspiration behind the ball, Pure Game founder, Tony Everett, mentioned that the idea came to the organization after seeing a lone soccer ball that a kid had left in a park. That sole soccer ball led to the team’s original idea: to start making soccer balls with the Pure Game logo on them as a marketing tool, to help spread the word of the organization. Later on, the team began brainstorming ideas for Pure Game soccer balls, which eventually led to the creation of the Encouragement Ball. In conversations about programs, the organization wanted to come up with a way to recognize kids who were taking action and embodying the character lessons they were being taught. They couldn’t think of a better way to highlight these kids than to use a soccer ball, since soccer is a key component of Pure Game’s programs.

With the idea in mind, the team began deciding how to make Encouragement Balls a reality. At first, the staff started decorating ordinary soccer balls themselves but eventually decided that it would be infinitely better if they could have them professionally created. So, a short time later, Pure Game partnered with the sports company, Vizari, who agreed to design and manufacture the unique Encouragement Ball. Each ball is outfitted with a Pure Game logo and the organization’s signature orange color, complete with numerous encouraging words printed all around the ball. Portions of the ball were intentionally left white to allow Field Champions to decorate and customize each Encouragement Ball for each child who receives one, making it that much more special.

In no time, the Encouragement Ball became an integral part of Pure Game, serving as an important symbol of recognition and highlighting kids for their work on implementing positive character into their lives. The ball also acts as an important reminder to students, encouraging them to continue making positive change and giving them the confidence to do so. One of the main reasons that Pure Game founder, Tony, believes the Encouragement Ball is so impactful is because in almost all instances, the kids who are selected to receive a ball, don’t know that they are the ones who will be receiving one. This element of surprise makes receiving the ball even more exciting for students because it shows them that their Field Champions and the adults around them really do notice their growth and the changes they are making. Tony also emphasizes that the idea of the Encouragement Ball extends far beyond the soccer ball itself and that it helps create a lasting impact on the child. He notes that when a kid’s behavior improves, they will start to receive more positive treatment by teachers, parents, and others in positions of authority, which can begin to make a child feel better about themselves. As a result, the child will continue to make better choices, which will again lead to more positive attention from those around them, and the cycle will continue. Tony refers to this as an upward spiral of change that can be kickstarted by the recognition given to a child when presented with an Encouragement Ball.

An Encouragement Ball means so much to those participating in our programs, and it is our job as youth mentors to provide our kids with the recognition they deserve. And now, people like YOU can help make a difference for a child by getting involved with Pure Game and becoming a Champion of Change. We encourage you to join the movement to change the future of the under-served children of Orange County, and a great way to do so is to create your own Encouragement Ball and sponsor a Pure Game child! To get involved, you can either decorate a ball yourself or sponsor one to be decorated by Pure Game. For the first option, Pure Game will send you an official Encouragement Ball to decorate, using your own unique flair! Once you’ve finished decorating, just send it back to Pure Game, and we’ll present it to a deserving child in one of our programs. For the second option, you can send in a donation to sponsor an Encouragement Ball, and the Pure Game staff will then decorate the ball and present it to a child on your behalf. Either way you choose to get involved, you are becoming a Champion of Change and making a difference in these kids’ lives. We need confident children who believe in themselves and the power of change, and when this happens, communities can be changed for the better.

To get started creating your own Encouragement Ball or sponsoring one for a child, please contact Pure Game’s Director of Development, Cristina Velasquez at [email protected] or click here to learn more. Remember, YOU have the power to make a difference, and together, we can create lasting change!

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