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Oakland Roots & Soul announce groundbreaking ‘Oakland Coach Academy’

By Staff, 03/26/24, 5:54PM EDT


Unique, holistic program designed to break barriers among underserved communities in accessing local soccer

OAKLAND, Calif. – Oakland Roots & Soul Sports Club, with support from the Oakland Roots and Soul Foundation, announced on Tuesday the expansion of its support of local soccer with the launch of the ‘Oakland Coach Academy’, a unique, holistic program designed to tackle the barriers that prevent boys and girls from underserved communities from accessing the sport.

The Academy has been designed as part of the club’s support of OUSD’s Expanded Learning programs, with the shared goal of ensuring every child in OUSD Elementary Schools has the opportunity to access free soccer programming at their school by the time of the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup.

“This initiative exemplifies the spirit of mentorship, diversity, and investing in our youth through sports. By addressing the shortage of qualified coaches, we are not only fostering athletic development but also providing valuable mentorship opportunities” said Sheng Thao, Mayor of the City of Oakland. “This program aligns perfectly with our commitment to inclusivity and empowerment, ensuring that every child in OUSD has access to quality soccer programming.

“The ‘Oakland Coach Academy’ is a testament to the positive impact sports and mentorship can have on the lives of our young community members, and I commend Oakland Roots & Soul SC for their dedication to creating opportunities for underrepresented groups. Together, we are building a stronger, more connected Oakland for future generations.”

The Community Coach Leadership program is supported by funding from Anthem Blue Cross, Verizon and Southwest Airlines.

The Academy will also support Switch the Pitch, a groundbreaking program launched by Oakland Roots & Soul SC, Common Goal and Soccer Without Borders focusing on tackling bias and discrimination in the youth soccer ‘pay to play’ environment. Switch the Pitch is supported by funding from the PG&E Corporation Foundation.

“The Oakland Coach Academy further demonstrates how Oakland Roots & Soul SC is committed to growing the game at the intersection of purpose, change, and justice” said Chris Busey, VP of DEI and Community Impact at the United Soccer League. “This is a model for how the broader soccer ecosystem can address the lack of coaching diversity – a global issue – with local relevance and impact as the driving force. These types of collaborations are instrumental to creating true, lasting change for coaches and youth by cultivating liberatory spaces and experiences through soccer.”

Research has shown that a major barrier to youth participation in sport in Oakland and the East Bay is a lack of qualified coaches from diverse backgrounds who have both the technical skills to provide quality, inclusive sports instruction, and also the social and emotional intelligence training necessary for working in underserved communities. The barriers are especially acute for girls – just nine percent of girls in Oakland receive the amount of daily physical activity recommended by the CDC.

“Access to, and appreciation of, soccer is expanding dramatically across Oakland Unified School District, mirroring what we are doing at our schools by adding new soccer pitches at numerous sites,” said OUSD Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “Of course, soccer is the most popular sport in the world, which fits perfectly in Oakland since it is one of the most diverse cities in the nation. We thank Oakland Roots & Soul SC for creating the Oakland Coach Academy that will multiply the number of coaches who guide our young people on the pitch, enabling the love of the sport to spread throughout our schools.”

The Academy will support a Community Coach Leadership Program, including official coaching qualification delivered by Cal North Youth Soccer as well as training from Positive Coaching Alliance covering topics like empathy, trauma sensitivity and anti-racism.

“A resource that promotes the development of our coaches is not only welcomed but highly needed to allow us to continue to provide high quality instruction for our student athletes” said Franky Navarro, Commissioner for the Oakland Athletic League (OAL). “OAL coaches are always more than just coaches, they are mentors that make a positive impact in our student athletes’ lives. Investing in their development will result in leading all student athletes to become positive contributors to our community.”

“Creating an equitable youth sports ecosystem requires collective action to address the root causes of inequities. The Oakland Coach Academy exemplifies this by mobilizing community resources to tackle structural barriers in coach education” added Robert Marcus, Chief Impact Officer at Positive Coaching Alliance. “This initiative not only changes the game on the field but also transforms the systems that dictate who gets to play, lead, and thrive. We’re proud to support this effort, which aligns with our mission to make youth sports positive, equitable, and accessible.”

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