Keene State alum Grant passes on soccer skills
KEENE, N.H. 7/17/12 – While many recent college grads and former athletes are faced with a double whammy, forced to find a job outside their field and possibly abandon a sport they played the past four years, Jackie Grant has the best of both worlds.
Serving as staffing coordinator and special needs program supervisor for Super Soccer Stars, the 2010 Keene State College grad not only is utilizing her degree in elementary education and psychology, but also taking advantage of the considerable soccer skills she acquired during her four-year career playing for the Owls. “It’s such an amazing way to do something I love. I couldn’t be happier,” said the Newington, Conn., native.
Bouncing around trying to find a job in the competitive teaching market, Grant initially teamed up with Super Soccer Stars on a part-time basis. It wasn’t long before the part-time job became a permanent position.
Founded 12 years ago in New York City, Super Soccer Stars’ goal is to teach soccer skills to kids, ranging from two to seven years old, in a noncompetitive, educational environment. The company quickly fulfilled a need in the market, opening regional offices in New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Florida. Grant, who is based in the company’s office in Charlestown, Mass., says the development classes use soccer as a vehicle to promote the whole child. “We work on cognitive, motor development, social and emotional, and language,” she said.
Super Soccer Stars partners with schools, but also runs classes seven days a week. Offering Saturday and after-school programs, Super Soccer Stars also holds classes for private groups in an assortment of indoor and outdoor venues and will even turn a child’s birthday party into a memorable soccer extravaganza.
Although she was never feted with the T-shirts, soccer balls, and balloons that accompany Super Soccer Stars birthday bashes, Grant honed her soccer skills playing in the recreational leagues before graduating to the state premiere team and Newington High, where she was a four-time All-Conference player.
Selecting Keene State for its athletic and academic opportunities, Grant flourished in the field and classroom. A tenacious competitor, she was a two-time All-Little East defender for the Owls, earning All-Region and District Academic All-America honors as a senior.
“Jackie was one of my most consistent players,” recalls KSC coach Denise Lyons. “Wherever I put her in the backfield, I knew she’d get the job done.”
Grant still keeps in touch with Ray Jobin, a retired education professor at Keene State, who had Jackie in several classes. “Jackie was the whole package, wonderful and bright,” said Jobin. “She was very engaged in the classroom, but very unassuming. It took me a while to draw her out, but she was quite a gem.”
Weighing her job options, Grant landed a teaching position at the Boston Medical Center, working with children who were either traumatized or referred to the Center by the Department of Children and Family (DCF) in Mass. “I always had a passion for special education and this was a way to segue into it,” she said.
Grant’s connection to special needs children can be traced back to her days in elementary school. “I remember being in third grade and I became like a tutor for one of the children with special needs in the classroom,” Grant said. “I’ve always had a place in my heart for students who need a little help along the way. I always loved and enjoyed the satisfaction of making a difference.”
Her job with Soccer Super Stars allowed Grant to roll the ball a little bit further.
Originally involved in staff development and running some of her own classes, Grant also has focused on program planning, staff training and curriculum, and evaluating the Super Soccer Stars team. “The comparison I make is if I were in a school I’d be in some administration position,” she said. “I’m mentoring and supporting our team, also observing and evaluating, and making sure the curriculum is age appropriate to help our children succeed.”
Currently attracting about 1,600 kids a week to its classes, offered throughout the greater Boston area, Super Soccer Stars is just starting to get the ball rolling. This fall, Grant is looking to introduce three new programs, including a pre-soccer movement class that has a “Mommy and Me” approach with a lot of music and movement, as well as a special needs offering and a premier program that stresses teamwork and good sportsmanship. “I’ll be busy, but it’s really exciting,” Grant said.
According to Grant, the company’s philosophy, which emphasizes low child-coach ratios, a lot of positive reinforcement, and a noncompetitive atmosphere, has caught on. “The feedback has been fantastic. Parents love it,” said Grant. “It speaks volumes about our staff – how much they genuinely love the community and the children.”
As far as Grant is concerned, the world of competitive soccer and the win-at-all-cost sports mentality will come soon enough for these young soccer students. “A lot of the teamwork and sportsmanship and the whole child development gets lost a little bit when it becomes one coach with 20 kids. They throw one ball out and expect the kids to play, and a lot of abstract concepts get lost,” Grant said. “Our program has opportunities for kids with special needs to be active and well socialized – and I know I’m a part of something much bigger.”