What started as a chance meeting on an airplane three months ago culminated in about 200 local youth soccer players at a free clinic put on by the Humboldt State University womens soccer players and coaches.
Children ages 4-16 years old showed up at the Del Norte High School soccer fields on Saturday to watch the Lumberjacks train, and later to receive training in a free clinic.
“The HSU girls were just incredible,” said organizer Dawnyel Wise. “They were so generous with their time; they were friendly and inviting; they were so great with our kids.”
After the clinic was over, kids received a free HSU T-shirt as well as a coupon from either McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box or Denny’s and admission to a future HSU womens soccer game. There was also a banquet at Mary Peacock Elementary that featured food donated by Subway, Pizza Hut, Pizza King and Torero’s.
The idea for the Humboldt State women’s soccer training and free clinic came about when Wise ended up sitting near Briana Garcia, a sophomore on the girls soccer team at HSU, on an airplane.
“We sat together on the plane and I asked if we could get together with the coaches and it just went from there,” said Wise, who organized the event as a member of the Del Norte Youth Soccer Association.
Wise said she felt this event was important for Del Norte because soccer has been on the decline in the community over the past few years.
“Education is really a huge problem in this community,” Wise said. “A lot of the kids kind of lose hope and don’t continue the sport, even to high school. The majority of them never think that they have the opportunity to go to a university. So this was more about education in combination with soccer.”
The clinic was also an opportunity for Del Norte soccer players to foster unity, drawing players from both the DNYSA, a California Youth Soccer Association organization, and the Del Norte United Soccer League, affiliated with U.S. Club Soccer.
Participants watch the action in front of the goal with a player-coach from the corner of the fields at Del Norte High School Saturday. Photo courtesy of Jeanette Flores
“It was a wonderful day for soccer in our community,” Wise said. “We were all kind of brought together. There is a huge division in our community with the two soccer leagues; I hope this helps us heal and maybe come back to one league or at least so we can play each other.”
The whole event wouldn’t have been possible without total community involvement, Wise said. In the beginning stages of organizing, things looked a little grim until Kevin Hartwick stepped up.
“When Mr. Hartwick was generous enough to give us the money from his trust, it seemed like more people stepped up and realized that it was really going to happen,” Wise said.
In addition to those already mentioned, Safeway, Spotlight Video, Northwoods Restaurant, Home Depot, Chevron, Del Norte Tire, Edward Jones, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Dr. Ward DDS, Grocery Outlet, Starbucks, Java Hut, Dutch Bro’s and Papa Murphy’s also helped sponsor the event.