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Developing soccer players on the field is one main focus of the Austin FC Academy, but helping educate the academy’s young players and its coaches on becoming good members of their community has been just as important. Since the fall of 2020, Austin FC Academy players have worked with 4ATX Foundation to learn and practice social-emotional skills through Restorative Circles, and this year, coaches have received Be A Beacon training to make the academy a more inclusive space for LGBTQIA2+ youth.

Now in its second year in use at the Club, the Restorative Circles initiative has expanded to include Austin FC Academy coaches as well as players. Coaches of the academy’s U12 and U13 teams were trained in Restorative Practices, and now co-facilitate Restorative Circles alongside 4ATX Foundation coaches every Thursday. In fall 2021, the Academy and 4ATX Foundation coaches co-facilitated eight weekly sessions for U12 and U13 players.

The program benefited the Austin FC Academy’s young players in two key ways: 94 percent of players report they have learned to manage their emotions in a healthier way and 100 percent report that they got to know more about their teammates.

Academy SEL Training
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In addition to Restorative Practices training, Austin FC Academy coaches recently received Level 1 Be a Beacon training, which teaches professional development for all school-based staff and adults who work with youth on how to create supportive learning environments for LGBTQIA2+ students.

Be A Beacon, an asynchronous three-level professional development training from Out Youth’s Texas GSA Network, provides adults who work with schools, sports programs, and other youth-focused organizations across Texas with the knowledge and tools they need best to serve youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

"The importance of all adults who work with children understanding how to respect and support LGBTQIA2+ youth cannot be overstated," said Frederick Heather, Out Youth's Advocacy & Education Manager. "Research from The Trevor Project shows that LGBTQ youth having even one supportive adult in their lives can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt by 40 percent. Out Youth is incredibly grateful for Austin FC and their commitment to serving the whole Verde community!"

“It is critical that we create an inclusive and respectful environment within our Academy, which includes player and coach behavior and awareness,” said Austin FC Academy General Manager Tyson Wahl. “Ensuring that our staff are investing time to become further educated and prepared to support LGBTQIA2+ youth has been incredibly valuable to our Academy.”