The grass is wet with dew on a humid morning in Georgia. Some 13-year-old kids are slapping shin guards on their shins, lacing up their cleats, and getting ready to play. It’s 7:30 am in the morning, and the kids just woke up on a Saturday–after a full week of early morning school days–to kick and chase around a ball with friends. It’s game day as a Georgia Rush player, and the joy and passion the kids embody is felt in the air, no doubt, but also worn. They have come to the fields in blue, ready to represent the Rush and promote the “R”, together.
Meanwhile, it’s 1:30 pm in the afternoon in Rwanda and the kids from Rwanda Rush, also known as Dream Team Football Academy, in Kigali have been playing all day. Many of them wear blue too. They have been running around on a hard field of worn down grass, with patches of rough dirt interspersed throughout. They never seem to tire.
Most are wearing cleats, and matching shorts and socks. Others have shorts of their choosing and mismatched socks; they have an almost complete kit, but not quite. They are all enjoying themselves, though. They are chasing around a ball as well, and something else is similar. The majority of them are in blue, and the “R” is there. They are Rush, and they feel a sense of belonging and togetherness, as if they are connected by more than just a game, but a community. It is what some across the world who wear the Rush “R” have come to call FAMILY.
Family. Community. Enjoyment. Passion. Unity. This is what it means to be Rush. This is what it means to be blue, Rush blue, and to share it. This is what it means to REACH out and give back to the game, to share the joy and the passion of it across the world, and to help others belong.
Established in 2002, REACH (RushEquipmentAssistingChildren) is a Rush Soccer initiative that allows every Rush player to make a difference for the game that we all love on a global scale. The REACH Program collects used uniforms, soccer equipment and soccer balls and then redistributes them to REACH Partner Clubs as well as other underprivileged children around the nation and the globe.
Most importantly, the gift of the program works both ways. It both empowers and humbles, and unites and teaches all parties involved in the exchange.
At Rush Fest 2017, a team of young boys from Belize Rush attended Rush Fest held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Rush players from the states who had bonded with the international boys over the beautiful game noticed some of the boys did not have shin guards or cleats. Even while facing defeat as the Belize boys showed great skill to walk away with the win that day (proving it doesn’t take equipment to play well), the American boys asked their parents if they could run to buy the boys shin guards and cleats so they could play more safely and return home with new gear.
In a special moment of unity and mutual respect, the players who had traveled with less were given the opportunity to compete in new gear. Their faces beamed with gratitude, as did the players’ faces who had given the gifts. In a simple exchange, they became more than clubmates or ‘Rush members’ who sported the same “R”, but friends.
Every Rush jersey can continue to impact more players across the world. A team of players can make a huge impact by banding together, donating all their Rush gear from a previous uniform cycle, and outfit a team across the world who’s desire to play the game is just the same. Furthermore, by outfitting them in one brand, the Rush brand, the gift becomes all the greater. The matching uniforms communicate oneness, passion, and purpose. They can now bleed blue too.
Today, Rush Soccer celebrates REACH Day! Every year on May 1, Rush Soccer highlights a program that began 17 years ago when one young Rush player decided to give back to the game that gave him so much. Ever since then, the program has outfitted Rush REACH clubs and teams in North America, Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia, which most importantly means that more kids have been able to take part in the Rush and play the game, together.
If you are interested in learning more about how to donate Rush uniforms at the end of the 2-year uniform cycle this year, you can email Rush Soccer’s new REACH Director, Dan Highstead, at [email protected]. A full donation of 2 Rush jerseys (blue + white) and a pair of shorts offers a $20 rebate that can go directly back to the donor’s local Rush Soccer clubs or directly to the donor family.
A note from the new REACH Director, Dan Highstead:
First, I would like to thank Kris Downs on behalf of myself and all of our Rush Soccer members around the world for all the amazing work she has done for the REACH program over the years. I am excited to be taking over this position and I’m looking forward to moving forward with this job. Our global footprint is growing daily with the amazing connections that Tiago Calvano, our Director of International Affairs, has developed and the REACH program is as important as ever.
This summer will be a big collection point for all our domestic clubs with the transition to Capelli Sport, which will allow us to get more kids in the Rush “R” uniforms all around the world. My job for REACH will be to raise awareness for our members about the program and how we can all get involved, from donating uniforms to participating in events such as our 2020 Reach trip which we are currently planning. Good luck with the remainder of your season and look out for updates regarding uniform collections and future plans.