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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Women's soccer team hosts clinic for inner-city youths

While the season is over for the women's soccer team, its members helped enhance the future of the sport, hosting a soccer clinic last Friday for City Kicks, an organization designed to support middle-school aged girls from the inner-city.

The event was an overwhelming success, with about 40 girls from Roxbury and Dorchester working on drills and playing various games run by the entire soccer team and its coach, Martha Whiting.

Senior Sara Standish helped organize the event. After reading about City Kicks in the Boston Globe, Standish says she realized it would be a rewarding experience for her team and the girls they would be instructing. "When you see younger kids playing soccer, it makes you remember why you starting playing in the first place," Standish said.

Standish contacted City Kicks coordinator Anne Strong, who agreed it would be a great experience for the girls and helped set up the event. This was the first time in City Kicks' three-year history that the organization worked directly with a complete college team.

"We tried asking some colleges in the past, but they are too busy with their season during the fall," Strong said. "The event was perfect. It was magical. Every single player was great with the kids. At first some of the young girls were standoffish, but by the end they were all laughing and completely into it."

The City Kicks' girls ranged widely in experience, anywhere from five years to less than one year, so the Tufts players had to revamp their itinerary to accommodate the disparate skill levels. "We worked on some basic drills with some girls, and we were able to show others some of the actual games that we play during practice," Standish said. "My teammates were great with changing around the drills and games to accommodate the girls."

Whiting let her players to do the coaching on Friday, but left the City Kicks girls with some closing words about how soccer is more than just a sport - but rather also an activity that can lead to friendship and teamwork that will be valuable in high school and college.

"The whole event turned out unbelievably well," Whiting said. "The Tufts girls were having just as much fun as the younger ones."

The funding for the clinic was provided by the provost's office and was given without hesitation when Standish approached Sol Gittleman. "Women's soccer is a great sport," Gittleman said. "Somerville benefits from this, and if Somerville benefits, then the University benefits. Seeing the quality of players on our soccer team must have been great for those girls."

Although this was its first time working with a college team, City Kicks has enjoyed success over the past three years and has thrived under the Strong's leadership. Strong, a non-practicing attorney, says she runs the City Kicks organization because she feels that inner-city children, especially girls, do not have enough opportunities to play organized sports.

There are over 125 girls who participate in the after school program, which meets two or three times a week. Its primary goal is to focus on teamwork, self-esteem and physical fitness, while downplaying the competitive aspect of the sport.

"I grew up in the '50s and was frustrated by not being able to play in sports because of my gender," Strong said. "When youth soccer became popular, I was drawn to it, but by the mid '90s, it was disproportionately white and upper-middle class. I wanted to get more lower income kids involved."

Strong was impressed by the detail of instruction, as well as the rapport developed between the girls. Although none of the City Kicks girls were available for comment, Strong says they enjoyed their time at Tufts. "If the volume on the bus ride home was any indication, I'd say they loved it," Strong said.

The two groups are already thinking ahead to another clinic in the spring and hope that Friday's success will be repeated in the future. And who knows, maybe one of the City Kicks girls will suit up in Brown and Blue one day.

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