Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mandela, Emilio Estevez and Richmond Youth Soccer

First, a great quote by Nelson Mandela that I came across again while reading (actually posted this quote several months ago but I don't think anybody was reading this back then):

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair."

Speaking of sport's ability to effect change, I wanted to let you know that I've been thinking a lot recently about how I want to spend my "free time" this year, meaning time I'm not working on specific Grassroot Soccer/Hope in Richmond initiatives. One idea I'm really excited about, and around which I've started gathering a local advisory team, is founding, organizing and coaching a youth soccer club here in Richmond. My plan is to make this youth club my extracurricular priority, and I'm really pumped about putting some serious time and energy into it.

I've pulled together a dream team to help make it happen. Here's a little taste: obviously, the Richmond All Stars' very own Saddam "the Dutch Dictator" Holland as assistant coach. And, crucially, I've pulled in a wily old guy named Paul Sampies who--although the President of All Stars FC--lives Richmond soccer and basically represents all of the town's 9 teams. Sampies remembers the good old days (5-10 years ago) when we had vibrant school sports teams, grass athletic fields, and a fourth divison Castle League semi-pro team all here in town.

We're moving forward with an announcement for 15- and 16-year old boys in the high school and middle school in two weeks, inviting kids to come to a first practice. Depending on how many kids want to play, we may have to make "cuts" (as someone who has been cut from a few too many teams I hate that word) but we're hoping it won't be an issue. The hope is that this team will not only give a necessary outlet to youth athletic talent here in town (there are currently ZERO youth soccer teams, including the schools) but also provide the space for its players to become role models in the community, conducting community service projects and serving as ambassadors for our Grassroot Soccer HIV educational activities.

The details are still coming together, but doing a coaching project like this has been on my wishlist since arriving here. I can't wait for it to start in earnest.

I'll leave you with a speech given masterfully by Emilio Estevez playing Coach Gordon Bombay (whose character has just completed a court-ordered community service stint coaching a pee wee ice hockey team and refuses when the boss at his lawfirm tells him to cheat) in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Mighty Ducks:

"Mr. Ducksworth, you wanted me to learn about fair play, and being on a team. Now, I might not have learned everything yet, but I remember something my father said to me:

A team isn't a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to. Something you feel. Something you have to earn. And I am not gonna let those kids down."


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