Trojans Model Leadership for the Los Angeles Fútbol Club|
April 7, 2015
They call it the Beautiful Game. Passing, precision and practice are requisites to its madness. But maybe most importantly, the game of soccer demands leadership.
In the 77th Street District of South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Fútbol Club (LAFC), a division of the Bresee Foundation, looks to inspire leadership in middle school students, students who need nothing more than an opportunity to succeed.
This past Friday night, the USC women's soccer team joined LAFC and these student-leaders as guest coaches of LAFC's bi-weekly Friday Night Skills and Drills clinics.
More than 125 kids from the South Los Angeles area showed up for the evening's festivities. Trojan soccer players Mandy Freeman and Sammy Jo Prudhomme kicked off the night with a pep talk about dedication and commitment.
"You need to have commitment to do what you love to the best of your abilities," Freeman said to the group.
After clustering the kids by age, the Trojans ran them through four stations of shooting, dribbling, passing and soccer tennis, drills the team practices on a daily basis.
The student-athletes were amazed by the passion for sport displayed throughout the evening.
"They love soccer so much," sophomore Kayla Mills said. "We're learning how much the game means to them. These kids live for Friday nights where they can come out here and play soccer. That's something we forget about, that it's not guaranteed."
The technical training is valuable to these South Los Angeles kids, but LAFC Director Anthony Cummings believes the growing relationship with the Trojan athletes provides even greater value.
"Seeing the female athletes talk to the young girls is so important," Cummings said. "To give them role models, to give them people that are talking about positive things in their lives, you can't measure that impact."
Head Coach Keidane McAlpine started to foster a relationship with LAFC soon after he was hired by USC in December 2013. He and Assistant Coach Jason Lockhart visited one of the Friday clinics last year and pledged to bring their team back the following year.
"Any time you can work with young kids and help them aspire to be where you are, that's a great thing," Coach McAlpine said. "It just gives our team a little reminder of where they used to be, which I think is priceless."
Coach McAlpine noticed a major shift in the way the clinics were run this year relative to his first visit. The activities were more organized, and the kids were more enthusiastic about being there.
"The moment we stepped in the park this year, the student-leaders were introducing themselves, taking control and running the show," he said.
These high school students who assist with the Friday clinics gain valuable communication and management skills, qualities the Trojans modeled throughout the clinic.
LAFC documentarian Pedro Joel believes these skills are vital to shape leaders in the community.
"These kids get a chance to see how the game of soccer works, and once they understand that, they can apply those skills to other parts of their lives," Joel said. "If there are more leadership role-models, then hopefully the younger generation can imitate them, eventually leading to a pipeline of leaders. That's what we need here."