Like most, I entered 2020 bright eyed and bushy tailed, (whatever that means). I had set my goals and resolutions and was ready for whatever the year had in store for me. But, I don’t think anybody could have predicted all that was to unfold over the last 12 months.
As many of us were forced to spend our time constrained to our homes we saw disheartening news stories plastered on our tv screens. But for every example of something bad, there were many more stories of people stepping up in courage and selflessness that oftentimes went unreported.I know this is cliche, but the worst of times really can bring out the best in people.
Like many people, we are attempting to hold onto the final days of summer. As we reflect on all of the wonderful programming we were able to hold this year, we find our greatest takeaway was how many incredible kids we were able to work with from all across the Cape and beyond. We learned about new cultures, shared stories, laughed ( a lot), and found ourselves feeling so grateful to be able to do the work that we do.
For the seventh consecutive year, we ran our annual KidzPlay4Free summer beach soccer program. Kids who are natives to Cape Cod and people just passing through for the summer joined us every Monday for an evening of pick- up beach soccer. Some of our favorite aspects of this program are the ease with which it runs. As the participants run around barefoot and laughing into the summer sky, family members are able to take in a warm summer night both stress and care free. We will always stand behind the notion that sports do not need to be expensive or stressful for a player or their family. In the right environment, they can make for the perfect experience. Our players help set up and break down fields, they help organize teams, and they solve problems which arise on the field. With minimal adult instruction and interaction, we are teaching them how to navigate on their own. A skill set that is vital to success in so many areas of their lives.
Joining us on Kalmus Beach this summer were participants from across the United States and even from places such as England, Germany, and Brazil. It is wonderful to watch the organic conversations among the players, as they are genuinely interested in hearing about where others are from. The game of soccer is such a conduit for these types of connections. In addition to playing with and learning about one another, we also had nightly lessons on topics such as environmental responsibilities, kindness and anti-bullying and giving back to your community. We feel that every athletic interaction and be accompanied by discussing and thinking about greater life lessons.
Something new we did this summer which was undoubtedly one of our favorite programs to date was UKSD’s very first, completely free of charge, KidzPlay4Free Summer Evening Clinic. We were able to offer this clinic to kids from the Barnstable community ranging from ages 7 to 17. We also opened the doors to any other players who might want to join us. Sure enough, our beach soccer friends from Germany and England were on board as well.
As many know, summer camps and clinics can be extremely expensive and many families are unable to let their kids to participate due to the financial burden. We thought about how missing out on that experience can be detrimental to both a child’s growth and happiness, and we felt the need to come up with a solution. When they get older, we want them to be able to join in on the conversation that begins with, “when I went to summer camp or sports clinics”. However, in typical UKSD fashion, we wanted to add an impactful and educational twist.
This three night clinic was based around playing the game of soccer while also learning about some of UKSD’s main focus topics. Through unique and carefully constructed activities, we were able to delve into conversations revolving around homelessness, hunger, and substance abuse. Following the methodology of the coaches across continents self-discovery learning model, the participants were the leaders of many of the conversations and were able to explore concepts and ideas that were pertinent to their lives and their communities.
To say that this event was both powerful and enjoyable would be an understatement. We are often in awe of just how intelligent youth can be. The discoveries that they were making, along with the deeper and connective level of thinking truly blew us away. Also embedded within the three night program was supporting the idea of self- advocacy in leadership skills.
This is something that we hope to continue every summer from here on out. We were able to connect with youth from so many different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, etc. We were able to help kids build memories and feel as if they get to be part of summer experiences that they may have otherwise had to miss out on. We are going to spend a significant amount of time this year raising funds to be able to give this opportunity to even more kids if possible.
A new school year may be approaching, but we are still sifting through all of the moments which made our 2019 summer one to remember. Thank you to all of our donors who made this possible. The kids from our community deserve to be part of something that expands their minds and makes them feel connected, and you have helped do just that.
This doesn’t just apply to baseball, folks.
To say that our first ever street soccer cage event- filled weekend was a success would be an understatement. Thanks to our friends at Mettle Sports and Massachusetts Youth Soccer, we were able to host a 3 vs. 3 street soccer Food Donation tournament for high schoolers, free pickup games for anyone interested, and a full youth clinic for children ranging in ages 3-10. The weekend was a whirlwind. However, when the dust settled, we could not believe all we learned and all we took away. We have tried to condense our findings into four points, but it has been hard to fully capture all that came from this special opportunity. Here is what you need to know about why our community needs a permanent street soccer cage now more than ever.
1.) This game and surface brings people in If you have never seen a Mettle Sports cage up close, you need to add it onto your list of necessities. Whether you’re a coach, player, or general lover of the game, you will be in awe of what happens when a pitch like this is dropped. With the help of many hands, the street soccer cage was put together throughout the course of an afternoon. No, it was not an easy feat by any means. Yet, as the field took shape, everyone knew it was going to be something special. The boards began to take hold of one another and nets were strewn atop the cross bars. In the middle of a concrete parking lot in Hyannis, MA, a small world was being crafted. A world that would hold athletes: young and old, newcomers to the game and seasoned professionals, people born here and born across the globe. In what seemed like an instant, the largeness of our surroundings came in and with it so did the people of our community. Even if only for a few hours, phones were away and people were fully engaged. The spectators who surrounded the boards were just as involved as the players who were battling it out inside. People passing on the sidewalk or bringing their kids to a neighboring little league field were stopping to see what this was all about. The energy was positive and palpable. We were in; we were all in.
2.) It changes how we play the game and shows us our strengths Street soccer is an entity all unto itself. Sure, the fundamentals of traditional soccer exist, but there are added elements that are necessary to find success within this style of play. It’s quick- really quick. A player’s awareness is heightened as they are in overdrive trying to be aware of their positioning, the dynamics of using the boards, the placement and size of the goals, and the speed of the ball as it drives across the concrete. To play in this fashion takes a great deal of confidence on the ball and confidence in yourself. As you can imagine, playing on concrete brings some minor concerns. You have players and parents asking, “But what is someone falls”? The answer is simple- you get right back up. Some people argue that grit cannot be taught. It is something you either have instinctually or not. We might argue that a little. Sometimes, it’s our job as adults and coaches to explain to a kid that it’s ok. They’re going to be ok. A scraped knee is not the end of the world, and the game will go on with or without them. It’s no secret that this logic is not specific to the game of soccer. We want kids to carry these lessons with them wherever they may go. We are even so daring as to claim that this style of play also helps parents get recognize the strength and resilience of their kids. It’s something that makes us all proud.
3.) It’s family With the boards standing a few feet high, there were moments throughout the weekend where you would catch a glimpse of a tuft of hair or small fingers latched along the sideline’s edge. These were siblings. They were cousins and family friends. They were little ones who came to watch and were eager to see what was happening inside. More visible were the parents, aunts, uncles, and doting grandparents all surrounding the cage. They were watching the games, having conversations with one another, and providing snacks and drinks when it was time for a break. They too were an integral part of the moment. If only we had a drone to take a photograph of the story being told. It was a field containing young athletes - surrounded by the people who love them most. We were this layered ring of people all holding each other in. We were teaching each other and learning from one another. We were family in every sense of the word. And with the waning days of family dinners and quality time together, you could tell is was so very needed by all.
4.) It’s diversity and having a place in your community - even if that community is new to you Although street soccer may seem new and stylish in the United States, it has existed long before it became a popular here. The reality is there are players from across the globe who learned the beautiful game on the streets because it was the only option. When having a state of the art pitch or even just having grass is a luxury, you play where you can- often barefoot and dodging whatever may lay in your path. No goals? No problem. You can make them out of rocks, trashcans, or whatever else can act as “posts”. No ball? No problem. We have seen some of the most innovative designs of items being strung together to make something resembling a ball. One thing is for sure, when someone loves this game, they make it work. The reason we say this is because soccer is a universal game. It can be played anywhere and by anyone, so it tends to draw a more dynamic crowd than other sports. As a result of this, we noticed the diversity of both players and spectators as soon as the cage was ready to be played in. Many people are not aware of the myriad demographics of people live on Cape Cod. We are an ever-growing place of cultural diversity. Throughout our cage soccer weekend, we had players and families from places such as Jamaica, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Haiti, etc. Many of these families are new to Cape Cod and looking for a way to plant roots. Soccer can be that place for them.
Long story short, our community needs this. In a world that is as complex as ours and unfortunately so often divided, it seems like a no brainer to do our part to create an environment that pulls us together and hold us all in. If a handmade soccer cage is the way to do that, let’s get building.
Hello! Our names are Alexis and Phoebe Papavasiliou, and we are here to share our experience with UKSD! We started UKSD when we were 5 and 7 years old in a run down gym in Osterville, Massachusetts. There were about 4 other kids in the class, who are now very close friends. He introduced himself to us as “Doc”, and that is still what we call him to this day. We have not stopped participating in his clinics and community service projects since. Through this program, we have made many friends and valuable memories. We also met many young women, that we admire and look up to, including Megan Fligg and Maddie Brennan. They would run clinics, and we would hear about their inspiring trips to Dominica, Ohio, Jordan, Kibera, and Florida, hoping one day we too could be apart of such a journey. Now we are happy to say we have come full circle, and we are going on the next trip to Dominica in April.
When we got older, UKSD came up with the “Academy”. This was more like a soccer team, rather than pick up games and clinics. In the Academy we focused on helping our community, building character, and improving our soccer skills. We would have two hour sessions, the first hour we would discuss certain inequalities in the society, and the second hour we would play soccer. As a team we would also participate in community service throughout Barnstable: we helped at a homeless breakfast; we raised money via soccer-thons; and collected canned goods through food drive tournaments. We were also given the opportunity to execute some of our own community service ideas. After hearing about the young women Doc was working with in Kibera, we wanted to connect with them more. With the help of Doc and Flig we were able to make this idea into a reality.
After spending many years participating in the UKSD Academy, we learned the value of community service. At the end of last year we had a meeting about how we would like to continue with UKSD, although we all enjoyed being apart of the Academy, it was difficult to fit into our schedules. As a result the idea of having an after school club came about. When Doc and Fligg asked us to be the President and Vice president of this club we were so excited. Over the summer with Doc and Fligg, we contributed and helped develop the Community Empowerment and Leadership Club. We are now a Junior and Freshman in high school, and a dynamic sister duo. We wanted to create a club where the members can identify issues or inequalities in their community and work together to create an event that will raise awareness about the issue chosen. Members of our club don’t only benefit from the community service hours, they gain valuable experiences and leadership skills. We think that participating in and supporting the community is important, and this club is a great way to show the next generation how fulfilling these experiences can be.
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