Dec. 11, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
As the New York City Football Club (NYCFC), a professional soccer organization that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS), awaits the construction of its new stadium next to Citi Field, the club is already giving back to the Queens community and working with local kids.
NYCFC’s community coaches have been providing free programming to kids in the borough in order to make the sport more accessible to children, while also teaching them about the rules of the game, as well as the benefits that come with playing a team sport. There are currently 14 schools across Queens offering these programs, a number that could soon grow.
The club has been part of program launched in 2016 with New York City that has led to the creation of more than 50 mini-pitches across the five boroughs, which have helped provide the space for the training sessions. The mini pitches can be found at schools and local playgrounds.
“NYCFC has done a great job with the initiative of building soccer fields at schools and parks around the city,” NYCFC head of community coaches Mauricio Maya said. “NYCFC has provided kids with the opportunity to play the sport whenever they want, because the fields are located in parks and schools. NYCFC has done everything possible to have those free spaces for the kids.”
It is a main priority to make the kids in the program feel welcome and safe, according to Maya. He attempts to ensure this through his responsibilities of assigning a coach to each of the schools the program works with. The coaches are trained before being assigned.
There are over 40 coaches across New York City, including 15 in Queens. While they each may have their own kind of coaching style, their first priority is always to help the kids from the community. They try to help give the kids an opportunity to have fun playing the game and socializing with others, regardless of skill level in the sport.
“The coaches are part of creating that environment that welcomes the kids, no matter what skills they have,” Maya said.
Based on the input report for 2022, there were approximately 8,000 kids in NYCFC’s programs across all of New York City last year. Of the 8,000 kids, about 2,000 were in Queens. This includes in-school and after-school programs, as well as Saturday Night Lights, among others.
“We don’t only base the soccer program on the sport,” Maya said. “We also base it on tips and advice for healthy habits. We try to teach the kids how to eat, drink and sleep well and how to prepare for their academics. On top of that, we provide an environment for them to play soccer.”
The in-school and after-school programs each run for 10 weeks in the fall, winter and spring. There is also a six-week summer program called “Soccer Block.” Saturday Night Lights runs year-round.