DETROIT – There is a new program focusing on the growth of youth soccer in Black communities across the country. People right in Detroit are playing a central role in getting it off the ground.
The Black Star Initiative is a national program that kicked off a weekend full of events at the Detroit City Fieldhouse on Friday.
“It’s great for the sport, great for Detroit, great for the youth,” Milton Putman said.
The weekend begins with a Black-business expo. Putman owns Complete Dominance Athletics, one of the many businesses featured. He’s also a father of two soccer stars in-the-making. Both boys are eager for the free BSI soccer clinic Saturday morning.
“My 8-year-old, he definitely has dreams of being a pro player. So he definitely wanted to get new cleats, new shin guards just to show what he can do out here,” Putman said.
Karen Hines of TherapySpa was also at the expo. As a mother of three, she wish programs like the BSI were around when her three kids were growing up.
“They were exposed to soccer on a small level but yet they decided to play basketball,” Hines said.
This national initiative isn’t just for the youth and players, there’s a free soccer clinic for coaches Friday.
“If we’re growing the game in the city, we also have to grow the pool of folks that know how to teach the game properly,” T.J. Winfrey, chief of partnerships of Detroit City Football Club (DCFC), said.
The weekend ends Sunday with a showcase for high school boys and girls.
Winfrey has been working on this weekend and partnership with BSI for months, but the time put in to get Black youth playing started long before that.
“We have a youth club that’s based right here in the city. It’s just that BSI is coming in and really amplifying a lot of the work,” said Winfrey.
As a Black man and former athlete the mission of this partnership is close to Winfrey. When he was about five years old he played soccer, but it was short-lived. Years later, he’s back on the field encouraging kids who look like him to take a different path.
“We’re creating access to a sport that historically we haven’t had access to,” Winfrey said.
For DCFC, the push to get kids in Detroit access to soccer doesn’t end here. Winfrey said this winter they are hosting an indoor league specifically for Detroit Public Schools Community District students.
There is still availability for the BSI free soccer clinic for ages 5 to 14, to register, click here.