EAST NASHVILLE – Every soccer player has a story about how they were introduced to the game, and how they fell in love with the game.
On Wednesday afternoon, groups of kids from the Cleveland Park Boys and Girls Club in East Nashville had the chance to create their own soccer memories with Nashville Soccer Club. They got the chance to play some pick-up soccer on our inflatable pitches with Nashville players Ken Tribbett, Jimmy Ockford, Forrest Lasso and Darnell King.
For Lasso in particular, getting the chance to introduce the game to kids that might not have kicked a soccer ball before brought him back to his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“My parents came from Mississippi and Atlanta,” Lasso said. “They didn’t really have the game growing up, so when I started to play in Raleigh, they had no idea. I think we all know that as soccer fans in America, the Southeast has maybe been a little bit behind the 8-ball. The game hasn’t grown as much as the rest of the world has, so I think for areas like this where we can introduce the game to those people and let them realize that it’s a possibility, it’s reality and the fun that it can bring you and the smile it puts on your face. I always joke around and say playing soccer is like Christmas Day. It’s the best gift you can ask for. Hopefully we can share that love with everyone else in Nashville.”
While some of the kids may have played a bit of soccer before Wednesday, many of them had not. Those kids had the perfect mentors to teach them the game in four Nashville SC players. In a neighborhood where kids might pick up a basketball or a football before they kick a soccer ball, just getting an introduction to the sport is a big step.
“It’s awesome,” said Herbert Myers, Director of the Cleveland Park Boys and Girls Club. “Like I was saying earlier, it’s a lot of exposure. Soccer is not a big sport here, but with a new major league team coming, the kids are going to see the game and play the game. A lot of them haven’t even played before.”
The format of the afternoon involved plenty of rotation, so every kid had the chance to step into the inflatable pitch and give soccer a try. Tribbett was delighted to see so many kids asking him questions about how to play the game.
“It’s pretty cool,” Tribbett said. “The way we did it here, every couple of minutes a new group would come on. Every once in awhile, there’s a kid that comes up to you that says ‘I’ve never played before’ or I’m doing a trick in a game and they say ‘Can you teach me how to do that?’ or something like that. It’s pretty cool to show off a little bit and give back to them.”
Professional athletes get the chance to play the game they love for a living and get to shine on a big stage week in and week out. However, according to King, getting to inspire a new generation of soccer fans and athletes might be the most rewarding part of the job.
“It’s huge,” King said. “It’s a great honor. If we’re out here and we can touch their hearts the way we can with what we do, it’s a big part of it. It’s great just to see the smiles on their faces. It’s awesome.”