WATSONVILLE — A group of lifelong friends and former soccer teammates will be providing a two-day experience for local kids they hope will stick with them forever.
Roy Contreras, Gilbert Yerena and Jesus Madrigal are hosting the 2nd Annual Free Soccer Clinic at Ramsay Park on June 29-30.
In partnership with the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust, the group is inviting the Pajaro Valley youth to attend the non-profit sports event at no cost to the participants or their families.
The soccer clinic is for boys and girls from ages 8 to 12 years old. Plus, they don’t need to have any experience or be affiliated with youth soccer teams.
“That’s the grassroots age where kids should be learning the fundamentals and things like that,” Contreras said.
Last year, the event was capped off at 60 kids. Contreras said there are 35 kids registered as of right now.
Participants will have the opportunity to meet and work with local players and coaching staff to run technical drills and learn proper techniques to promote on-field safety
The kids will also learn about the importance of character development and good sportsmanship from a diverse and accomplished group of players.
“It’s part of the foundation as when they get older they’ll be able to distinguish what’s right from wrong and be able to accept your mistakes if they make a mistake,” Contreras said.
Contreras, 36, said it also teaches kids how to help those in need or being able to acknowledge a good deed.
A group of kids participate in a drill during last year's Annual Free Soccer Clinic at Ramsay Park. (contributed by Roy Contreras)
Watsonville Mayor Francisco Estrada, who played for Los Halcones Rojos club with the group, is a big part of helping put on the clinic.
Estrada is scheduled to host a Zumba exercise session for the adults.
“We figured if we’re trying to provide a healthy environment why not provide something for the parents as well,” Contreras said.
The clinic was created by Contreras with the idea of giving back to the community he grew up in. He said each kid deserves to have someone who believes in them.
“It reaffirms it when they have someone that says I got your back and I’ll support you,” Contreras said.
Madrigal, 36, was in charge of finding a location and initiating a conversation with different possible organizations.
Madrigal said the rest of the team contributed their time and resources to make the project happen.
“As I was growing up I really didn’t have the opportunity of going to soccer camp or anything like that,” Madrigal said. “What we’re trying to do is give that opportunity for the kids.”
The City of Watsonville along with the recreation and sports department has been a huge help. It donated the field and resources to enroll youth to the program.
But it still takes at least a couple of thousand dollars and tons of volunteer hours to run the clinic.
PV Health Trust is a physical nonprofit sponsor, while the Pajaro Valley Certified Farmers’ Market provides snacks and water.
Contreras, who now lives in Salt Lake City, said most of the funding comes from donations, including from some of his former teammates at Watsonville High.
Madrigal said the most difficult part of putting on the clinic is getting enough funds and making it sustainable.
“We want to make this free for kids,” he said.
Gilbert Yerena is part of a group of lifelong friends that put on a youth soccer clinic in his hometown of Watsonville. (contributed by Roy Contreras)
Yerena said he remembers growing up with the same group of friends thanks to playing soccer.
“It was unique,” he said. “I think what this does for the community is it provides opportunities for kids. And more so than the sport itself, I think it creates an opportunity to connect with kids and guide them in the right direction.”
Yerena said it’s been a humbling experience to team up with his former soccer teammates.
“It feels good to be able to give back because we didn’t have that when we were growing up,” Yerena said. “It was always difficult for us to even make it to a tournament. For all these guys to pitch in and for a good cause, it’s awesome.”
Contreras said he’s also excited to team up with a group of childhood friends who share the same vision as him.
“Let’s share our experiences with the local kids, the new generation,” he said. “Let’s show them that soccer and our friendship is a lifelong thing. It’s not just while you’re at school.”
The two-day clinic will be held at Ramsay Park and some equipment will be provided.
Participants are asked to wear cool, comfortable clothing along with a pair of cleats. Snacks and water will also be provided for the participants after the clinic.
Those interested in contributing to the soccer clinic can do so by visiting https://pvhealthtrust.org/free-soccer-clinic-weekend/
Editor's Note: This article will be published in the June 21 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.