The soggy field behind LoVonya DeJean Middle School shook, rattled and rolled Wednesday evening, as five Major League Soccer players from the San Jose Earthquakes conducted a clinic for Richmond United Soccer Club players. For many of the 120 youngsters it was their first chance to meet a pro soccer player.
After a brief introduction by Earthquakes assistant coach Ian Russell, the large group of children broke off into six groups and practiced skills such as running with the ball, shooting, passing and juggling. Parents lined the sideline with cell phone cameras and took pictures of their children interacting with the pros.
David Bingham, a Pleasanton native, former UC Berkeley player and current goalkeeper for the Earthquakes, said because most children who attend the clinics are so young, he’s often asked how many pairs of cleats he has instead of technical soccer questions. “Sometimes they ask where we went to school and how we got to where we’re at,” he said. “And that’s ultimately what we like to share with them.”
Earthquakes midfielder Sam Garza said when he was a young player he attended pro clinics, too, and looked up to the players he met. “It’s always great to give back to a bunch of kids and inspire them to hopefully be professionals,” he said.
Richmond United Soccer Club president Gelberg Rodriguez said he found out about the Earthquakes Elite Partners program and wanted to get his kids involved. The 90-minute clinic cost $10 per player, he said .
In addition to the clinic, Richmond United players will travel to San Jose this Sunday, September 2, and watch the Earthquakes take on Chivas USA. Not only will the young players get to watch the game, they’ll go onto the field and participate in pre-game and halftime activities.
Mark Raney, a sales representative for the Earthquakes, said a big part of the Elite Partners program is to get children to games and experience a professional environment. “A lot of kids don’t get to their first professional soccer game until later in their life,” he said. “It’s important for kids to see their heroes.”
On top of the $10 dollar clinic fee, Raney said Richmond United Soccer Club had to purchase 290 tickets to the game—the total number of players in the Richmond United league.
After the clinic was over, Richmond United players lined up with soccer balls, T-shirts and backpacks so that the Earthquake stars could sign them.
Nahum Arredondo, 10, of Realm Charter School in Berkeley said he learned new tricks and how to shoot the ball, but that the Earthquake players were not his heroes. “My favorite team is Pumas,” he said.
Manuel Romero 11, of Riverside Elementary said he’s very grateful for the soccer clinic and likes watching the San Jose team on TV. “They’re not my favorite players, but one of my favorite,” he said.
For Enoc Mora, 11, of Coronado Elementary, meeting the Earthquake players and learning new moves from them was everything he could have imagined. “I was happy,” he said, “because they’re professionals and better than the people that walk in the street.”