Young Delray Beach soccer players learn from police officer coaches — and each other — on and off the field – Palm Beach Post

When Delray Kicks starting goalie Nixon Rivera hurt his toe, he limped along the sidelines, cheering on his teammates and their police officer coaches.
For two weeks, the injured 14-year-old Nixon, used to telling his teammates where to position themselves on the field, cupped his hands to his mouth and told them to “listen to coach.”
“I was loudest one there,” Nixon said. “I was doing what I could to support my teammates.”
For the last six months, Delray Beach Sgt. Danny Pacheco Jr. and his team of three officer coaches have gotten these kids’ attention — both on and off the field.
“Being part of this team make them feel part of something and they all look forward coming to play,” Pacheco said. “At the field they do not see us as police officers, they see us as someone they can trust.”
Pacheco started the Delray Kicks near the start of the school year as a way to forge a bond between the police force and the community it serves. The Delray Beach Police Department has been at Merritt Park every Tuesday night coaching soccer, with drills in defense, shooting skills, passing, kicking, and most of all – teamwork.
“These amazing kids, ranging in age from 6 to 14 years old, enjoy learning the fundamentals of the game as well as interacting with police officers as their coaches in a friendly and safe environment,” Pacheco said. “We’ve had approximately 20 to 40 kids consistently participate in every practice, and the progress they are making is incredible.”
Pacheco got the idea from assisting Sgt. Adam Rosenthal, who taught karate to youngsters years ago. Pacheco broached the soccer idea to Delray Police Chief Javaro Sims as a way for the police department to reach even more kids. It was a perfect goal.
“We want to reach across boundaries and bring everyone in regardless of race, creed or color,” Sims said. “Those kids have become family and hold each other accountable off the field as well as on.”
Players come from all parts of the city and varying nationalities and gender. The majority are Latino, Haitian and African-American. Many show up without shoes or socks. Pacheco and his coaching staff — officers Mark Lucas, Kal Alami and Tanisha Johnson — dip into their own pockets in some cases to provide these kids with soccer shoes, socks, soccer balls and uniforms. 
“A lot of these parents simply don’t have the means,” Pacheco said. “These kids come from a community where they feel the police are bad. Hopefully people see what we’re trying to do for the kids in the community.”
Frequently, the students are need of school supplies and even food.  Their parents work two jobs and cannot afford to take them to school or practice.   
The police department under Sims and Pacheco raised $3,000 for uniforms. Some of the kids were so excited to get the glossy jersey emblazoned with Delray Kicks and logo, that they slept in it. Pacheco often sees kids wearing the jerseys when he’s on patrol.
But for Nixon, the perks were more personal.
“Now that I’m in shape, my mom loves it,” Nixon said. “I used to stay home on my phone all the time.”
Nixon, a seventh-grader at Village Academy, joined the Kicks because he was heavy and wanted to lose weight. The regimen of running mandated by the coaches helped him become more agile and protect the net. Pacheco gave Nixon work to do at home so that he could get in shape as the team’s goalie.
At first, his single mom was hesitant about the team. But then she saw the rewards. In addition to the fitness aspect, Nixon became closer with his friends. Nixon was struggling in science, so Pacheco paired him up with a science-minded teammate, who helped Nixon get his grades up. The officers work with the kids’ teachers in some cases and even have arranged for tutors.
“These kids will grow with this program over the next few years,” Pacheco said. “They’ll be growing up in the community and one day giving back.”
On the way to practice one Tuesday in February, Pacheco caught a 12-year-old stealing a wallet from a car. 
Pacheco was delayed going to the field. But it made him appreciate the Delray Kicks.
“I can almost assure you that the kids who are on my team wouldn’t do that,” Pacheco said. “Other kids on my team wouldn’t let him do that.”
The Kicks saw their first game action in February, and have several more games scheduled this month. The team is in the process of setting up more games moving forward.  
“I want to be playing a team in Miami going for the championship,” said Moses Lexidort, a 12-year-old at Carver Middle School.
Moses plays midfield/right forward and said the officer coaches helped him learn to dribble the ball between his legs in just a few weeks. He too has reaped the off-the-field benefits of Delray Kicks.
“Coach Lucas encourages me to keep my grades up,” Moses said. “They all tell me that I can do it. As a team, we make sure to stay out of bad stuff and keep up the good energy.”
Pacheco’s ultimate goal is for other police departments to start similar programs. He’d love to play against other teams from other departments.
“The immediate goal is to make a difference,” Pacheco said. “I retire in five years so I hope the younger officers carry on with these kids.”
Sims considers Pacheco a hero for creating this program.
“He’s teaching these kids how to get up after you get knocked down,” Sims said. “If I could get 10 or 15 guys to do something similar, this would be a much better community altogether.”


What's your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

More in:Diaspora

Comments are closed.