Paul Caccamo, pictured right, is the founder and CEO of Up2Us Sports, and one of the Founders of the sports-based youth development movement.

Over the past 25 years, Caccamo has created several successful nonprofits that focus on youth development, sports and physical activity and education.

Up2Us Sports is a highly successful social service program of his design. The core of the program has three pillars – Develop the Coach in Everyone • Foster Positive Relationships • Focus on Results. 

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Here is an excerpt from an interview with Paul where he talks about the origins of the Up2Us Sports program and why sports are fundamentally important to the education of children worldwide.

How did you think of the idea of Up2Us Sports? Did it come to you one day? I spent my entire life in youth development and also my focus was education. After college I taught school in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on a little tiny island on the Equator called Ebeye Island which most people have never heard of. The entire island was tin shacks because the island was so overpopulated with 10,000 people in a one mile by 200 yards and 7,000 of those were kids. The only hope for those kids was to get educated enough because if they could get through a sixth-grade education, they might qualify to get to middle school in Guam, and if they could get to Guam, maybe they could get to college in Hawaii.

It was a dream for some of the parents living on the island for their kids to get a sixth-grade education and that was my role as a teacher; first, to educate the kids and second, to educate the adults to be teachers so we could get more kids in the education pipeline.

From then on, I realized how important education was, and when I came back to the U.S. and started working in education, something struck me. You don’t have to be living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to have the same isolation that many inner-city kids have because no one has exposed them to three blocks away from where the projects are that they are growing up in. I realized the answer is the same. We need to educate kids and so my life has been dedicated to education.

I founded the Up2Us Sports because I wanted to know why kids here in the U.S. living in urban cities were not succeeding educationally because we have teachers and schools in our urban centers.

Then I met a teacher outside Washington, D.C. who had introduced soccer to a group of inner city girls who had never played the game. By introducing them to sports outside the classroom, it wasn’t just about giving them a safe place to be; it was teaching them skills through soccer that translated back into the classroom. Because after play, all of the girls were focused in on what the teacher had to say and were supporting each other—which had never happened before they played on a soccer team.

When we don’t give kids sports in our public schools, we put a major stumbling block in our kids ability to succeed. After this experience, I started coaching; I got other teachers to coach to address the life skills that are the building blocks for learning … Teamwork, Discipline, Leadership and being able to Measure something that you couldn’t succeed in before. That’s essential for every classroom in America, but that’s not something you can often teach in a classroom. That was the genesis.

Photos courtesy Up2Us Sports