Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Free youth soccer league kicks off in Nokomis with NENA’s help

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

NENA and park board partner with father-son team to offer a regular activity for kids at Bossen’s multi-use fields

Thanks to a father-son team, nearly 400 kids are participating in a free youth soccer league on Saturdays at Bossen Field.

José Garcia and his 20-year-old son José (Beto) Garcia approached the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA) in December 2017 about

starting a soccer league in the neighborhood. They have been running an informational soccer skills group that meets about two times a week and wanted to do something more formal.

The Garcias asked NENA for help finding field space as they were tired of getting kicked off baseball fields.

NENA agreed to approach the Park Board with the Garcias, in part due to community response from a set of activities held last year courtesy of a grant from Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Photo right: Father and son, José Garcia (left) and José “Beto” Garcia, have been running a soccer skills group in the Nokomis neighborhood that grew into a free, 24-team soccer league this summer. “We’re doing this for the reason that we want to help our community and we want to share the disciplines of this beautiful sport,” stated José Garcia. “We want to teach them the values of respect, leadership, gratitude and compassion for each other.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

NENA used the grant funds to put on a series of activities with the Park Board, including flag football, soccer, and birdhouse making at the multi-use fields at Bossen, explained NENA Community Organizer Karla Guadalupe Arredondo-Payan. Residents asked for more activities for younger kids.

A free soccer league answered that request.

“We are here to serve residents. We don’t dictate the events going on. We ask for resident input,” observed Arredondo-Payan.
She added, “We want to help build the community.”

The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) supplies the goal posts, soccer balls, and other equipment. NENA provides the paint to mark the fields and other items as needed.

While the multi-use fields don’t have soccer markings, they are free compared to the soccer fields that are rented by groups.

Open to every race and gender
The league includes 24 teams that were organized by each coach and began playing in late May. The league will continue through Sept. 22, and conclude with a big end-of-the-season celebration. Games are held between 8:30am and 4pm on Saturdays.

The coaches met at NENA’s office in April to iron out the rules of the league, which focus on good sportsmanship and safety. The Garcias were clear that they can’t run a league alone, but need the commitment of coaches and others to make it happen.

“It’s not an easy task to be a leader, but we’re trying to do the best we can to satisfy everyone,” stated Beto Garcia.

Photo left: Members of the soccer league meet up during the week at Bossen field to practice, despite the rainy weather on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

This year, the Garcias are focusing on creating a strong league that puts a priority on skill-building and teams. Next year, they may add other amenities such as food trucks.

They will also evaluate whether to offer a winter league based on demand from participants.

The league seeks to be inclusive and is open to every race and gender. While many of the players from South Minneapolis are from the Latino community, the majority from St. Paul are of Asian descent. There are also African American and Caucasian players.

“We’re working together to build something for all of us,” said Garcia.

Giving back
In addition to helping to run the league with his father, Garcia coaches a team of 10-year-olds. He sees his role as more than just instilling the discipline of soccer skills. It’s also about team building and respect.

When two of his team members argued recently, he stepped in to help them resolve their differences by modeling respect and conflict resolution.
Beto is inspired by his father and what he’s done to give back to his community by sharing his love of soccer.

The Latino community is passionate about soccer, pointed out Garcia, so he and his father wanted to build upon that interest. Plus, they recognize that parents appreciate some help with their kids.

“A lot of the kids spend so much time on PlayStation or video games,” pointed out Garcia. “They have a lack of exercise in the summertime.”

“Families and kids really enjoy playing soccer,” agreed Arredondo-Payan. “It gets them physically active and doing something productive.”

For Garcia, his work as a volunteer comes down to “inspiration, motivation, and dedication for our community.”

He added, “We just feel inspired, and we know that this is important for kids and families.”

For more information, contact Beto Garcia at 612-707-1499.

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