The last two years, Inspireum, a Bend, Oregon based social enterprise, has built the High School “Rudy” Awards, which honors state by state the most inspiring story of a young student-athlete who plays football. He has never been the biggest or the best, but many times he has overcome the most or used the values of athletics to make those around him better, ala the original Rudy Ruettiger, whose story has inspired thousands from his walk-on efforts at Notre Dame.
Now the company has decided to expand the program away from football, creating the Inspireum Soccer Awards on the same platform. Over $25,000 in academic scholarships will be awarded by the Trusted Sports Foundation to the twelve finalists, who can be nominated just like the football players were, at www.InspireumSoccerAwards.com. Images and video can also be uploaded, and are encouraged. The Top 12 finalists are chosen on December 13th and the winner, three runners-up and two fan favorites will be announced on January 3, 2012. The winner will receive their scholarship and award at the NSCAA Convention in Kansas City on January 14th.
The final scholarship recipients are chosen by a national selection committee that is led by former coach of the U.S. Men’s National team and LA Galaxy, Steve Sampson. Other notable soccer personalities such as Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Lynn Berling-Manuel of American Youth Soccer Organization, and internationally acclaimed soccer announcer Andres Cantor, serve on the selection committee.
The “Rudy” awards came at a prime time when brands were looking to find ways to grow their brands with philanthropy in mind, and the response did not disappoint. The platform has steadily become a great activation opportunity for a high school market, and by expanding the program into soccer, it can now reach both boys and girls involved in what is arguably the most grassroots sport in the United States today.
At a time when we all look at athletics below the professional level as becoming too driven by dollars, these programs serve as a reminder of the core values of athletics, with an opportunity for brands to connect for a higher calling from some athletes. The move to soccer will also help the continued growth of MLS and even WPS, as these local athletes will serve as another call to action for all who may just have a casual interest in the game, but have a strong sense of community and fair play.