Oakland Roots training new community soccer coaches to support youth

A basic underpinning of the Oakland Roots professional soccer team is community involvement and fan development.

Where better to start than with the youngest fans who may become loyal followers of the team for decades to come.

At the Oakland Roots Soccer Training facility in Alameda, the teams undertook a major effort to make it easier for kids to get into and benefit from soccer.

The goal was to train and equip 50 to 100 new community soccer coaches and want-to-be coaches for nonprofits, Oakland schools and City Parks and Recreation.

"We want to bring championships to Oakland. We want to be a successful organization. But, we believe the way to do that here, is to put the community first. So that's what I focus on, but so does everyone else in the organization," said Oakland Roots Community Purpose and Engagement Officer Mike Geddes.

Aptly named "Roots in the Community," the team, and Anthem Blue Cross are striving to improve players' physical and mental health.

Oakland Roots coaches and the nonprofit Coaching Corps and Positive Coaching Alliance were the trainers.

"Events like this, where we bring community members together to learn about the positives in sports and give them opportunities to volunteer in the community, to increase access to kids by becoming sports coaches, said Robert Marcus of the Positive Coaching Alliance.

It's tailored around how to coach kids from disadvantaged communities and do it with understanding and empathy. It also includes training on how coaches can recognize and support those who need mental health support.

"There is a huge need and an opportunity here in Oakland which is, many kids are denied the opportunity to access sports because of financial, geographic or cultural reasons," said Geddes.

"One of the biggest things that we always look to do is to empower them to take on the challenges and sort through adversity in a positive manner and to help them become more whole on the other side of that adversity," said professional coach and Jackson College Alumni Dale Evans.

For many young people, teachers and coaches provide lifelong learning and fond memories.

"For some, a lot of them, we're all they have. So, it's super important to have the relationship. It's maybe one of the only relationships they build and have someone to go to," said active soccer coach Loni Brewer.

An underprivileged beginning or just bad breaks can wreck a young person's life. But, with care, concern, and coaching, it just doesn't have to end up that way.