A young girl kicks a soccer ball into the air and watches it soar while her teammates cheer. It’s chilly outside and a fading sun hangs in the sky. Despite the cold, the kids at Akron Inner City Soccer Club play on, encouraging each other as coaches guide them.
Cameron, one of the players, is about nine years old. Although he wants to be a basketball player when he grows up, he enjoys coming to practice and seeing his friends.
“I like to play soccer,” he says. “You get to be part of a team.”
Josh is one of over 150 kids who are part of Akron Inner City Soccer Club. The group consists of kids ranging from 5-18 years old.
Coach Dele Olabisi founded the group in 1999 for his son. Since its founding, Coach Dele has mentored over 10,000 kids. He loves providing them with a strong community centered around his favorite sport.
Coach Dele is from Nigeria and he has fond memories of playing soccer as a kid.
“In Nigeria, that’s our sport. That’s what we do. We played until there was no more sunlight. It’s a beautiful game.”
Parent Denise Jenkins has seen her daughter’s confidence grow because of the team.
“For my daughter, she really enjoys her soccer matches. I’ve seen her confidence grow, her self-esteem grow and her leadership skills grow.”
She also appreciates that the team is so diverse. There are coaches from Nigeria, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Liberia, Philippines, Egypt and Jamaica. The kids, too, come from all parts of the world.
“A lot of them don’t speak English but they come here and Coach Dele gives them an experience and teaches them some life skills and social skills.”
Because of the support of the parents and coaches, Akron Inner City Soccer Club wins most of their games. Just last Spring, three of their teams became division champions and six out of the seven teams made the playoffs.
Parent and coach Angelica Reeves says the team is always looking for more volunteer coaches. Akron Inner City Soccer Club is also a nonprofit, so any donations help.
“For a lot of these kids, their parents don’t have the funds to buy shoes and all the equipment that comes with playing soccer.”
Coach Dele picks and drops off many of the kids who are part of the team. Some of the kids have families who are homeless or fathers who are in jail.
“We are coming from a game once and this boy said, ‘coach Dele, I wish my dad could be here.’ His dad was in jail. I will never forget this,’” says Coach Dele.
Aside from monetary donations, Coach Dele would like to see community members come to the games and support the kids.
“It means a lot to me because I want to give them opportunities. Especially in the inner city, [I want to] open their eyes to another sport.”
Akron Inner City Soccer Club is open for kids to join in the Fall and Spring for $35. They also offer indoor training in the winter for free and a four-week summer camp for free. The summer camp offers over 100 meals for free at no cost for the parents. Additionally, much of the equipment is also offered for free.
Join Akron Inner City Soccer Club for their one-day tournament on Saturday, August 11 at Copley Road Soccer Complex.
For more information about Akron Inner City Soccer Club, visit inner-citysoccer.org or call 330-524-3776.