Sport found Miriam Tepale later than most.
As a child in the Bronx, the now-18-year-old had limited access to sport. She had always wanted to play, had tried multiple programs within her borough to find a team, but nothing had stuck.
“The programs I wanted to join with, they were not motivating me enough,” she said. “I lost hope and just kind of let it be.”
Then, at 16, she learned about South Bronx United (SBU) through a cousin. The program, one of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sports 4 Life community partners, utilizes soccer to promote health and wellness, academic achievement and leadership development to immigrant and first-generation youth in the South Bronx area. The organization combines on- and off-field experiences to engage a traditionally underserved community that has the fastest growing immigrant population in New York City.
For Miriam, it was a perfect fit.
“I needed help with school,” she said. “They helped me with skills and communication, and they helped me believe in myself more. I didn’t really believe in myself before I found soccer.”
Miriam tried out for and eventually made SBU’s under-19 team. When she was injured during the season, she stuck with the team, supporting her teammates and later graduating from the program. SBU motivated her in a way that no other program had, and sports gave her the confidence to rediscover her passion for teaching, something she had all but given up on.
After her playing career with SBU ended, Miriam signed on to coach one of the organization’s youth recreational teams. Miriam is now studying Business Administration at the Borough of Manhattan Community College after receiving a partial scholarship from SBU. She plans to build on this and get a degree in early childhood education. In the meantime, she wants to continue coaching, giving back to young girls what soccer gave to her.
“I had lost hope in becoming a teacher, but just coaching the girls, I’ve realized I can do it,” she said. “Being with the younger kids, it makes me really happy.”
The progress she sees in her players, she says, parallels the strides she herself made through sport both on and off the field.
“When they first started, they thought that soccer was only for guys,” Miriam said. “You just have to be really passionate about it and show them that you’re passionate, and little by little the girls have started coming to me and telling me that they have started playing soccer with their families, which they didn’t do before.”
I didn’t really believe in myself before I found soccer.
Her main message to them? Something that SBU taught her just two short years ago.
“If there is something my players want to do, then they should go for it. I’ve seen their progress with that, and I’m really happy that they are comfortable with it.
I just keep telling them to believe in themselves.”
One of WSF’s 64 Sports 4 Life community programs in 2018, South Bronx United uses its Sports 4 Life funding to offset coaching costs, including training and licensing, for people like Miriam Tepale. To help more girls and women unlock their potential through sport, please click here.
Thank you to espnW for its continued, generous support of the Sports 4 Life program.