Scoring in soccer, life skills

EVERETT — Walter E. Hall Park was a sea of swarming yellow. More than 600 kids were full of energy. Everyone wore a bright yellow shirt emblazoned with the Casino Road Futbol Academy logo.

The Casino Road Futbol Academy was in full swing, and seven-year-old player Brianna Araiza could explain the summer camp with three simple words.

“We play soccer,” Araiza said.

Sgt. Manuel Garcia of the Everett Police Department started the academy in 2009. Garcia is a former soccer player for the Cruz Azul team in Mexico.

The week-long program aspires to build police-community relations and empower youth.

Breakfast is served for campers at 8 a.m., followed by lots of soccer from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The $20 registration includes breakfast and lunch, a jersey and a soccer ball.

A portion of the camp’s spots are reserved for kids receiving a scholarship. Many come from foster homes.

In the past five years, more than 3,000 kids have learned soccer and life skills at the academy.

It was the first time for Monica Mondragon, 13. She admitted she would rather be enrolled in the camp than be at home during a summer week.

“I didn’t have anything else to do,” said Mondragon. “There’s different people you meet and you just play soccer.”

Xochitl Tandoc watched her 14-year-old daughter coach from the sideline. Her face beamed with pride. “My kids have grown up with this camp,” Tandoc said.

Her son Marc, 8, initially was hesitant to attend the camp.

“Now he’s complaining that it only lasts a week,” Tandoc said.

Her daughter, Kristine Tandoc, coached for the first time this year but attended the Casino Road Futbol Academy as a camper for four years.

“It’s fun to play with the kids,” said Kristine Tandoc. “The goal is to keep kids off the streets.”

Amidst scrimmages, kids ran through the fields waving flags from different nations. The camp coincided with the World Cup series in Brazil, and many of the participants are rooting for Mexico but hope the United States does well.

Due to the late-June humidity, many campers flocked to the drizzling water fountain. Everett police officers ate tamales, beans and rice. Coaches laughed with their campers while demonstrating new drills.

Alondra Barrientos credited the coaching staff for making the camp so enjoyable.

“It was really fun. The coaches are really nice,” said 10-year-old Barrientos. “They always care about us.”

Brenna Holland: bholland@heraldnet.com.

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