Street Soccer USA | Growing up with Street Soccer USA: Featured Player of the Month Shauntel Payton 
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Growing up with Street Soccer USA: Featured Player of the Month Shauntel Payton 

Growing up with Street Soccer USA: Featured Player of the Month Shauntel Payton 

Shauntel coaching a group of youth participants

Shauntel Payton, the newest Coach at SSUSA Sacramento, has a history with Street Soccer which sets her apart from everyone else in her position. Street Soccer USA was introduced to Shauntel when she was only 10 years old.  Shauntel, her mother, and four siblings were living at a Volunteers of America Transitional housing community for the recently homeless where the first SSUSA Sacramento Adult teams were founded. Shauntel’s mother joined Sacramento’s Lady Salamanders, the first SSUSA Sacramento women’s team, which was training for the 2011 SSUSA Nationals in Washington DC.

Shauntel and her siblings have been strengthening SSUSA’s Sacramento program since the first day they showed up with their mother in 2010. Not only were the Payton kids extremely athletic and good at soccer, but they were the first people our women’s program had the chance to practice against as a team! Shauntel and her siblings showed up to almost every practice with their mother in that first year, and they have continued to show up to play and practice for the last 6 years.

In 2014, Street Soccer USA was invited to participate in the Street Child World Cup in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Shauntel was one of the youth that was chosen to represent the USA. The USA coed team took third place in the event and the youth were able to have an experience like no other.  At the event they were able to connect with 14 other countries’ boys and girls who are using soccer as a way to overcome hardship, build character and empower them to be leaders and advocates for the homeless youth around the world.

Shauntel is now 17, in her senior year of High School, set to graduate this summer, and is now a paid youth coach for Street Soccer USA Sacramento.  Shauntel has been working closely with Program Manager Lisa Wrightsman to make sure the kids, ages 7-14, from low income neighborhoods, are getting access to soccer, having a positive experience, and building positive relationships that will encourage them to strive for their best. We sat down with Shauntel to speak with her about her experience growing up as part of SSUSA:

What was it like for you as a kid (when you were 10) to come out with your mom to the first Street Soccer practices?
I thought it was fun playing with adults and we thought it was fun to play against old people.  My siblings and I looked forward to playing every week and would remind our mom that it was time for practice.  [We] didn’t really know what SSUSA was but saw it as an outlet for everyone and it was a healthy thing for us all do to together.

How has SSUSA impacted you?
By being involved and participating in events and watching my mom’s experiences it gave me a sense of hope because I was able to see there was more to the world than I thought.  Practice became a place for my family to go out and play together, to have fun and connect with our community.  The practices started to look and feel like home because my mom, uncle and all my siblings were there as well and the new relationships we had built. It felt like a new start.

What were some of your favorite moments at the Street Child World Cup?
When we weren’t playing soccer we were participating in leadership workshops with the other countries and one of the days we were all sitting together in a big circle and sharing stories, about what our lives are like and what it is like living in our countries, and what kinds of opportunities we do and don’t have. My second favorite part was playing in the last game in the famous Brazilian Flamengo stadium. Before my  experience at the Street Child World Cup, I thought my life was horrible, and after the trip it helped me to see things differently and appreciate what I had and the opportunities I had in front of me. I became more hopeful for what my life could look like and realized that I wanted to be able to help people.  The experience helped show me that there was much more to life than I thought.

How has it been coaching?
I like everything about it.  I like how the kids are and that although they may be going through difficult times, they still show up and I find the them super inspiring.  Working with the kids encourages me to want to do better in my life and not take anything for granted, but to make the most of my opportunities.  I enjoy playing with the kids and showing them new things, and being able to connect and build relationships with the kids. I love when the kids ask me to be on their team!

What is your favorite thing as a SSUSA coach?
Meeting the kids, learning their names and about who they are, and seeing how excited they get when we show up to start practice.

What are the goals you have?
Finish high school, go to a junior college, then 4 year [college] to study child development and something that relates to my background, or a job that allows me to utilize my life experiences and help others.