When Ciudad Nueva brought a youth soccer league to the Rio Grande neighborhood last fall, only one thing was missing: a middle school division.
Ciudad Nueva decided to limit the league to kindergarten through fifth grade during its inaugural year, but league director Bruce Meyer plans to expand the league to include teams for middle schoolers this fall. The league, which is part of the Upward Sports organization, was the vision of Ciudad Nueva’s executive director, Sami DiPasquale, who sees it as a way to further Ciudad Nueva’s mission of building community in the Rio Grande neighborhood.
“The kids just wanted to play”
The fact that they couldn’t play as part of the Upward League didn’t stop the middle schoolers from playing soccer. They started practicing every day, and eventually some of the kids’ dads started coaching them.
Tamy Diaz, Ciudad Nueva’s Launch Pad Coordinator and Community Connector, says there was a group of five dads who were really involved in coaching the middle school students. Even though these dads were already serving as referees for the Upward League, they stepped in to coach for the middle school students as well, fitting games and practices in between long hours at work and other obligations. “They like supporting the kids and what the kids want to do,” Tamy says. “They were amazing.”
Together, they helped organize games for the kids. “The kids just wanted to play,” she says. “We got the high school kids, the moms and dads, and the staff to play against them.” They played on the field at St. Clement’s after the Upward games.
Tamy notes that even just five years ago they would not have seen this level of response from the parents. “We’ve been building relationships with one another and so we can call people and ask them to be involved,” Tamy says. “Without community and relationships, you don’t have the foundation. There’s a difference in that relationship.”
Excitement is building as the fall approaches
As successful as the pop-up soccer team was, the kids are looking forward to being a part of the Upward League this fall. “They get to have a uniform and play against kids their age as part of Upward,” Tamy says.
She is excited, too. “I know it will bring them together,” Tamy says. “Even though they’ve been together a long time and have grown up together, they can grow in their reliance on each other.”