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I remember when I was a second grader waking up on Saturday mornings, throwing on my reversible red and blue YMCA soccer shirt, strapping up shin guards, chugging a Gatorade and heading out to the soccer park to play on my rec soccer team. I don’t remember scoring many goals or playing goalie, but I remember fun with friends and the feeling of racing down the field. In high school, I played on an indoor team with a group of youth Kurdish refugees from Iraq. I was the only kid on the team whose first language was English, but regardless of our cultural and language differences, we both shared a love for soccer.

In the United States, I would use one word to describe our relationship with soccer: passion. As an adult, you have to be truly passionate to find somewhere to play soccer. In the past, you had to be passionate enough to pay ridiculous amounts of money for special soccer channels. You have to be passionate enough to play pick up games with total strangers.

Passion is how I would describe Van Buren kids and soccer. At 11:25 am on any day of the week, fourth and fifth grade recess coalesces into a huge game of soccer. They play on a windswept hill right outside the school. On hot days, the kids come in from this game sweating and huffing. On cold days, they blow warm breath into their shivering hands and play on.

Kids on Course has provided after school recreational soccer enrichment classes for these kids since the beginning. But we are now proud to partner with the Cedar River Soccer Association (CRSA) to provide kids with a professionally run soccer academy experience.

CRSA reached out to Kids on Course, to provide kids who would otherwise not have the opportunity to play club soccer, a chance to join CRSA. Some of these kids have not played soccer in a formal setting before, but have endless hours of “street ball” under their belt. This formal experience can hone their raw skills and talent.

Alen Kudumovic, Director of Coaching, and Jason Witt, a Professional Coach with CRSA, have been very welcoming and gracious to work with as we get our students involved. There are currently 15 KOC students from Van Buren, Harrison, Roosevelt, and Wilson building their skills with CRSA on a weekly basis.

This past weekend, Jason and Alen hosted a special Soccer Festival for Kids on Course students. This opened the doors to students who have shown and interest in soccer through enrichment classes, but have not yet joined training through CRSA.

Twenty-two kids from Van Buren, Harrison, and Grant elementary schools participated in the event. They first worked on ball skills and then split into teams to play four-on-four games. The kids loved this experience. Some were nervous at first to join in, but everyone ended up having a great time.

Jason and Alen created a positive, nurturing learning environment for the kids, emphasizing fun and growth over winning. We are excited for our partnership with CRSA to continue, as we are able to help connect more kids with professional coaching and an organization that can help refine their skills.

– Greg White, Van Buren Site Manager