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Guest MINDSETTER™ Chris Westerkamp: Providence Recreation - What’s The Matter With Youth Soccer?

Friday, June 19, 2015

 

I hate to pile-on the problems of Providence’s Recreation Department that GoLocalProv.com has covered with dedication for more than a year. However, as long as the topic is on the table I feel compelled to point out a glaring bias in the Department’s recreation program offerings: youth soccer. How can Providence Rec completely ignores youth soccer when the sport continues to grow all over the Rhode Island and the country? Millions are spent to support football, baseball and basketball while the City provides essentially nothing for youth soccer.

Whomever Mayor Elorza picks to clean up the mess that is Providence Parks and Recreation needs to recognize that the City deserves a robust youth soccer program as a part of its offerings.

Soccer is by far the number one sport internationally. It has a huge following in Spanish speaking countries. Based on the demographics of the more than 23,000 students in Providence public schools one would expect youth soccer participation to be in the thousands. As of March 2014 69% come from Spanish speaking households. This notwithstanding, the Providence Futbol Club (PFC) only currently serves between 150 -250 kids. Almost all of whom are in competitive teams age 12 and older. PFC should be one of the premier youth sports organizations in the City and the State. Imagine how many young folks are not getting the opportunity to play competitive soccer. Money is a factor but the big reason there are so few teams is the lack of fields to practice and play on.

To support he kind of youth soccer program the City deserves, Parks and Recreation needs to provide and maintain four to five additional soccer fields. Most of the City’s existing fields are in serious disrepair and are used mainly by adult soccer leagues. Many coaches and parents consider them to be too dangerous for kids.

As is the case with clubs throughout Rhode Island and around the country, soccer clubs support themselves with fees and fundraising. The City does not have to fund club operations. They do however, need to provide and maintain fields.

There is an excellent reason youth soccer enjoys such a high level of support in cities other than Providence. Soccer promotes a healthy lifestyle and teaches life skills for kids starting at age 5. Young people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds can play safely. Soccer is positive outlet that teaches teamwork and dedication to energetic teens and young adults of both genders. Multiple studies show that soccer programs benefit the community; kids who participate perform better in school, have higher high school graduation rates are more likely to go on to college, and are less likely to get into trouble with the law.

Other cities in Rhode Island manage to support soccer leagues with impressive enrollment numbers: Cranston -1,300, Pawtucket - 930 and Warwick almost 1,900. In the last 20 years youth soccer has exploded in America with an estimated 4.2 million kids participating as of 2014.

There are many areas throughout our parks system where soccer fields can be built. We have the room. We just need the will and leadership from local government. I recognize building new soccer fields and improving conditions of the few we do have will cost money, but the payoff for Providence youth will be well worth it. The bill for supporting soccer is way overdue.

Recreational sports play a key role in development of our young citizens. It’s time for the City of Providence to kick-in some support for the fastest growing sport in our state and the country.  (pun intended)

Chris Westerkamp is a former broadcasting and new media executive and serves on the board of the Providence Futbol Club

 

Related Slideshow: Providence Recreation Centers

Providence's nine recreation centers are in varying levels of disrepair as of June 2015.  

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Davey Lopes

Davey Lopes Recreation Center

227 Dudley Rd.

Providence, RI 02907

Torn and worn down workout equipment is shown in this picture. Old and rusty weights are all over the gym with no organization.

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Davey Lopes

Davey Lopes Recreation Center 

227 Dudley Rd.

Providence, RI 02907

Here is another picture of a bench press rack that has been used a few too many times. This rack is ripped up and has lost pretty much all of its padding.

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Davey Lopes

Davey Lopes Recreation Center

227 Dudley Rd.

Providence, RI 02907

Davey Lopes' pool, which reopened last year after repairs, appeared to have some structural issues as well as rust, sediment and debris, as the facility prepared for another summer season. 

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Neutaconkanut

Neutaconkanut Recreation Center

675 Plainfield St.

Providence, RI 02909

Inside the basketball gym at Neutaconkanut Recreation Center the padding on the wall is very worn and ripped along the top.

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Neutaconkanut

Neutaconkanut Recreation Center

675 Plainfield St.

Providence, RI 02909

The lights underneath the scoreboard in the basketball gym appear to have been hit a few times to the point where one of the lights is barely attached.

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Neutaconkanut

Neutaconkanut Recreation Center

675 Plainfield St.

Providence, RI 02909

The lockers in the men's room are extremely rusty from top to bottom and are beat up.

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Sackett Street

Sackett Street Recreation Center

159 Sackett St.

Providence, RI 02907

The paint on the walls of Sackett Street Recreation Center is chipping away fairly quickly. This wall has lost a good amount of paint already and there is more falling off.

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Sackett Street

Sackett Street Recreation Center

159 Sackett St.

Providence, RI 02907

Torn wall padding seems to be the pattern throughout these recreation centers and Sackett Street is no different.  

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Selim Madelin Rogers

Selim Madelin Rogers Recreation Center

60 Camden Ave.

Providence, RI 02908

The door to one of the stalls in the men's restroom is hanging by a hinge.

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Selim Madelin Rogers

Selim Madelin Rogers Recreation Center

60 Camden Ave.

Providence, RI 02908

One of the water fountains at Selim Madelin Rogers is missing muliple cover pieces and has a small leak.

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Selim Madelin Rogers

Selim Madelin Rogers Recreation Center 

60 Camden Ave.

Providence, RI 02908

Walking along the side of the recreation center there was a large tear in the fence. This tear was big enough for a person to walk through without any problem.

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Selim Madelin Rogers

Selim Madelin Rogers Recreation Center

60 Camden Ave.

Providence, RI 02908

The playground was in decent shape for the children, but there was one thing missing. The chain was the only thing left of the swing.

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South Providence

South Providence Recreation Center

674 Praire Ave.

Providence, RI 02905

There doesn't seem to be enough storage space at South Providence, due to the fact that there are all sorts of items stored in the locker room showers.

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Vincent Brown

Vincent Brown Recreation Center

438 Hope St.

Providence, RI 02906

The walls need to have a little work done. Inside the basketball gym the paint is very faded and falling off.

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Vincent Brown

Vincent Brown Recreation Center

438 Hope St.

Providence, RI 02906

Another piece of padding in the basketball court is falling apart. 

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West End

West End Recreation Center

109 Bucklin St.

Providence, RI 02907

At first glance it is hard to tell what this building is because of the missing letters on the sign, but this building is the West End Recreation Center.

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West End

West End Recreation Center

109 Bucklin St.

Providence, RI 02907

To add on to the missing sign, one of the entrances consists of a broken floor and stained carpet.

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West End

West End Recreation Center

109 Bucklin St.

Providence, RI 02907

An entrance to West End has a lot of the paint peeled off which doesn't make a great appearance. 

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West End

West End Recreation Center

109 Bucklin St.

Providence, RI 02907

A tile is missing underneath the water fountain at the West End Recreation Center.

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Zuccolo

Zuccolo Recreation Center

11 Gesler St.

Providence, RI 02909

The Zuccolo Recreation Center was in good shape, with only one of the things that stood out was the broken water fountain. 

 
 

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