Soccer field hopes to bring the sport to a new, more diverse generation of NJ children
Football is an internationally renowned sport played by people from diverse backgrounds in countries all over the world.
But, in the United States, there are notable disparities when it comes to race and income, which has an impact on who can play the game at the youth level, especially in an organized setting. In 2018, former US goaltender Hope Solo called American football a “sport for rich and white children,” highlighting a lack of diversity in the American game, while calling for entry barriers like costs. high associated with team membership.
Players Development Academy (PDA), a New Jersey-based football club and youth training program, uses its latest community service initiative to help bridge the gap, opening mini football fields in communities underserved in New Jersey.
“We think there is a real middle class feeling about football in America. And we want to do whatever we can to attract other diverse communities and give them access to the game, ”said Gerry McKeown, director of coaching for PDA Boys.
PDA’s newest community development venture was unveiled in New Brunswick last Wednesday, when it opened a mini soccer field next to a playing field at 77 Harvey Street. It is located in a residential area, where neighbors have said generations of children will use anything they can find, like trash cans, to set up makeshift soccer goals.
Now those same kids have a dedicated space to play the game. And the city will partner with PDA to host volunteer-based exercises and educational events in the space every week, organizers said.
“I used to play in this park when I was little,” said Keith Jones, New Brunswick director of human and community services. “So being able to provide resources and opportunities to all New Brunswick residents is… it’s my life’s job. It is a joy.
The park is the second collaboration between the city and PDA. Six months ago, a similar football field was opened at Joyce Kilmer Park, just a mile south, Jones said.
“Football for most of my community, you know, the black community, we tend to get away from it in a lot of ways,” Jones said. “So it’s a (chance) to provide that space and an opportunity.”
Similar initiatives have already sprung up in some of New Jersey’s larger cities, and this area is one of 10 PDA plans to build in New Jersey.
Robert Woods Johnson Hospital and the RWJ Barnabas Health Network donated $ 65,000 to open the field, McKeown said. The project was carried out by PDA’s non-profit Urban Initiative program.
A few children and teens threw soccer balls into the new space on Wednesday after a brief unveiling ceremony. Some said they plan to stop in the field as soon as they get the chance.
“When I was younger we didn’t really have a lot of places to play, we just found an open court… or we played on the basketball courts,” said Randy Arronis, 19.
“Otherwise, we would have to walk about 20 minutes to find the field closest to us. So having this available anytime of the day and so close to home is a good thing.
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