Summer soccer camp teaches kids positive skills
EVERETT - Sergeant Manny Garcia is watching his summer soccer camp grow each year.
Garcia came up with the Casino Road Futbol Academy four years ago to let kids get into soccer instead of gangs and drugs. Everett Police Department officers spend the week teaching kids the mechanics of soccer.
“It’s my way I can relate to myself and the ability we have as officers to see the community,” said Garcia, a former professional soccer player.
More than 400 kids are participating in the camp this week at Walter E. Hall Park.
The program is expanding with a camp at Hawthorne Elementary July 9 to 13 to cover north end kids. To sign up, call 425-244-4511 or contact the Casino Road Futbol Academy at 2316 12th. St. Registration is capped at 400 kids ages 7 to 14 and costs $20.
Garcia saw the opportunity to give kids a taste of leadership through the most accessible sport on the planet: soccer. Every kid gets a role in the camp, from coaching to rounding up balls.
It’s important to teach kids about being a positive part of the community, Garcia said.
The Police Department can’t quantify how much the camp acts as a gang prevention tool, but there’s been a reduction in gang membership among youth, Garcia said.
One teen that went through the camp got away from gangs and now is going to college, Garcia said.
“Becoming a coach to little kids made him feel more important,” Garcia said, declining to name the camp member.
The camp grows trust in the police among the large minority population that lives on Casino Road, Garcia said. Kids on Casino Road flock to the camp and now wave at police cars and eagerly approach officers, he said.
Garcia started the camp for the love of the sport.
Garcia grew up in Mexico City and as a young teen played for Cruz Azul, a professional soccer team.
“I was a young kid in Mexico, of hundreds of thousands I suppose, and I started developing,” Garcia said humbly.
The Police Department is working with the South Everett/Mukilteo Boys and Girls Club and other groups to assist with the camp.
Club director Jake Marsh said he was blown away when he saw the camp in action.
“I’ve been hearing the buzz about the camp for a while but to see it first-hand is a completely different experience,” Marsh said. “To know that something like that where the entire community comes together like that for kids and the fact it happens just up the block is amazing.”
Marsh is part of a multipronged effort to keep kids away from gangs and drugs to improve community relationships along Casino Road.
“The camp is furthering what all of us want on Casino Road,” Marsh said.