We’ve always believed that sports and outdoor activities can be used as a powerful recovery tool. In our Valley Recovery Center regimen we regularly incorporate things like hiking and team building. But over in Sacramento, former soccer star Lisa Wrightsman is taking things to a whole other level. Her influential Street Soccer USA league doesn’t just help those overcoming addiction, it focuses on people who have lost their homes.
Local ABC outlet KOAT recently did a profile on Lisa and the inspiring work that’s happening on her sports team. After getting a full soccer scholarship to Sacramento State University, Lisa went pro and traveled all over the world as a renowned lady striker. Tragically though, a dependency on methamphetamines soon got the best of her and she ultimately lost everything she worked so hard for.
“I really hit rock bottom in 2009,” Wrightsman revealed to KOAT reporters. “I was in jail. I was arrested for the last time. Six months after using methamphetamines I went pretty crazy.”
But at her lowest point, Lisa reached a pivotal turning point. Rebuilding her life and her career, Lisa decided to form Street Soccer USA. The specialized league catered specifically to northern California’s homeless population, aiming to help former addicts find an outlet and get back on their feet.
In the past seven years, Street Soccer USA (or SSUSA, for short) has grown by leaps and bounds. Several former Sacramento athletes have found comfort in the weekly games and built a strong support system among the recovery advocates. As each player overcomes their addiction, they work to “pay it forward” and mentor other younger players who are struggling to kick their habits.
29-year-old SSUSA player Sarah Chambers was also profiled, openly discussing her experiences as a user and a dealer. Chambers (who now coaches new SSUSA teams) described herself as a “functioning addict” who eventually lost her job, spouse and friends to drugs. Thankfully, the organized games and camaraderie turned things around; providing Sarah with structure and a sense of hope.
“I had no real direction before street soccer,” she explained. “My whole life (was) surrounded around being high and street soccer taught me the importance of showing up because anyone who knows me knows I am always late and can’t be held accountable.”
One other positive foot note to the story was the success these player have been having on the field. This year, the Sacramento SSUSA team traveled all the way to Brazil to compete in an international championship. It is truly an inspirational accomplishment and one that deserves to be recognized.