BY MICHAEL RANDAZZO
On a recent Friday afternoon at P.S. 20 The Clinton Hill School, children ages 6 through 10 were crowded around Dominick Falanga as he demonstrated the proper technique for kicking a soccer ball. In the cramped confines of the school’s gymnasium, the solidly built freshman defender from St. Francis Brooklyn men’s soccer team was carefully positioning the feet of his young charges.
Falanga, along with Terrier teammates Nadim Saqui and Lukas Hauer, is volunteering with Young Rock Soccer Academy, a youth program based in Fort Greene, to provide free soccer and fitness classes to local children in the Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Navy Yard and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods.
The 10-week clinic in Clinton Hill, which includes a total of 30 kids from both P.S. 20 and the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts & Letters, is part of Young Rock’s continued efforts to promote the world’s most popular sport to a community they’ve been serving for the past decade.
Funded by a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation, the two-year project, which also includes clinics at Ingersoll Community Center in Downtown Brooklyn, offers St. Francis players an opportunity to work directly with young athletes.
“It is a privilege for our team to be involved. We are honored by the support we receive from the community and feel it is very important to give back,” St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Tom Giovatto said.
“The players enjoy teaching young kids the game and seeing the smiles on their faces. We want to help the sport grow and it starts with kids.”
Including the Terriers—winners of the Northeast Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament the past two years and back-to-back berths in the NCAA tournament—is a win for the community and the college.
“This project allows many of our students, who might not otherwise have access to high quality sports instruction, the opportunity to participate in a fun, enriching and community building class with their peers,” said Dawn Babbush, coordinator of Arts & Letters’ afterschool.
Young Rock, which for the past five years has offered free programs on fitness and sports, appreciates the support given to this latest program.
“This is an opportunity that many of these kids would not have experienced but for the support of Coca-Cola and St. Francis,” co-founder Magnus Mukoro said. “We hope that this collaboration endures so that deserving children can learn the importance of health and fitness through sports.”
For Coca-Cola—a major funder of Young Rock activities—it’s an ideal way to directly benefit local kids.
“We recognize that we cannot have a healthy and growing business unless the communities we serve are healthy and sustainable,” Josh Gold, director of brand and business communications at Coca-Cola, said. “That’s why we support programs and initiatives like Young Rock Soccer, which helps make a positive difference through important priorities like physical activity and youth development.”
Michael Randazzo is a parent and community advocate focusing on education, local politics and sports in the Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Heights, Clinton Hill, and Fort Greene communities. With an extensive resume of coverage at The Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch the Brooklyn Heights Blog and the Brooklyn Courier, Randazzo follows the LIU Blackbirds, the St. Francis Terriers, Young Rock Soccer Academy and other local sports teams.