After years of being viewed as a sport that is not relevant and not suitable for Americans, the demand in soccer has increased and it has become one of the most popular sports in the United States. This popularity increase has two big reasons. The first reason is the World Cup campaign, where the United States Women won the World Cup final. Another reason is the establishment of successful new club teams such as Atlanta United, who pull big names which resulted in the shattering of attendance records. This popularity increase also has positive effects for local communities like Monmouth, where soccer players create a family-like relationship with the community.
The community of Monmouth is getting more and more involved with the sport. Esmeralda Baltierra-Chalez, a sophomore on the women’s soccer team at Monmouth College, also notices this engagement. “The honking of the cars at soccer games is one of the ways that you see that the community is involved with us.” Esmeralda has been playing soccer for almost 10 years now, but nowhere that she has played had a community that is as involved as the Monmouth community. “In the previous experiences that I had, the community was never really involved with the soccer team; it was usually just parents that showed up to games.” She argued that because the community of Monmouth is so small, the soccer team and the community have a family-like relationship which also results in more recruits for the college, and this also causes civic engagement.
The college soccer team also helps the community of Monmouth with the organization of events. One of the ways that the team helps is with summer soccer camps at Monmouth, where both men and women soccer team players attend to help and play with the children. Nicholas Rizzo, the women’s soccer coach at Monmouth College, also helps during these summer camps. Coach Rizzo has a lot of coaching experience and was already from his sophomore year of college busy with coaching. Rizzo states, “The women’s soccer team is very diverse, we have a lot of different majors, people that are involved in sororities and clubs.” The soccer team also is doing activities with the elementary school and helping them. The children from both the elementary schools and the children that participate in the summer camps see the team as examples and leaders. He also stated that some of the girls help the children in Monmouth with tutoring. Coach Rizzo also sees the recent World Cup victory last summer as something that sparked even more interest to the community. These people are, for the younger generations, leaders and big examples.
The increasing popularity is also seen in the numbers of people at the YMCA. Tom Perry, the Warren County Spokesperson Director, was one of the people that established the soccer program at the local YMCA in 2004. Tom Perry states, “The number of kids that have joined the YMCA has increased to around 130/140 children as of right now.” Perry loves the upcoming of soccer because it gives children an outlet for those that do not want to play football. Tom Perry learned how to coach soccer from George Perry, an old soccer coach at Monmouth College. One of the proudest moments of Tom Perry regarding soccer is that two of the kids that he coached at the YMCA won the State Championship in 2016 which are big examples and leaders for the children that currently play at the YMCA.
Rik Doornenbal – Contributing Writer