U.S. Soccer Foundation Mini-Pitches Add to Soccer Legacy in Baltimore

Tim Almaguer serves as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Baltimore Recreation and Parks Department, where he’s worked for the last six years. Tim is an avid soccer fan and player, has participated in the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success training, and played an integral role in bringing mini-pitches to Baltimore through Target’s and the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s national partnership. Tim lives in Baltimore with his wife and two daughters, ages 4 and 7.

During COVID-19 and prescriptive social distancing, there has been an innate desire to get outside beyond one’s four walls and Zoom classes to reconnect with public parks and open spaces, to replete oneself in the healing powers of parks, and to replicate some fragment of normalcy. This habitual need speaks to how public urban parks, their restorative use, and the activities that are embedded in them have become woven into our social tapestry—from outdoor family picnics to cheering on U10 soccer players. Thankfully and more recently, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s mini-pitches have also become a part of this landscape, as well as a part of the remedy.

In the United States, the curative impact of urban, public parks was realized in the mid-1800s as an antidote to the persistent unhealthy “vapors” or miasma which brought disease to the growing number of city residents. Parks became known as the “Lungs of the City,” cleansing both the dwellings and the dwellers. Public, open-space parks became essential elements in urban design, and it is for those very reasons that we gravitate to them today.

At the turn of the 20th century, new health and societal challenges arose, and a new therapy was again found in city parks. This time, they played a more active role rather than taking on a pastoral view. As American cities became more densely populated due to the country’s industrial growth, streets and housing become overcrowded, detrimentally affecting children. Many children were playing unsupervised in unsafe streets and delinquency became the byproduct.

To address this social breakdown, a new era of social activism evolved. The Progressive Movement during the early 1900s harnessed the power of civil society to provide supervised recreation and play for the city’s children, many of whom had migrated from the local countryside or from Europe and beyond. In Baltimore, these ideals birthed the “Playground Athletic League” (PAL), which built a new landscape of playgrounds and athletic fields as well as organized youth sports programs to activate these spaces. Hundreds of playground leaders and coaches were enlisted to teach healthy play in parks, providing not only physical benefits but also teaching social and moral lessons.

One of the first competitive sports played during the era of the Playground Athletic League (1908-1936) was soccer. This sport was popular with many of the immigrant children who had recently arrived in the United States from Ireland and Germany. Soccer leagues and tournaments were played in all of Baltimore’s major city parks such as Patterson, Riverside, Easterwood, and Clifton Parks. Teams were fielded based on “weight” classes with team names such as the “Odd Sox,” “Cliffords,” and “Creo’s.”

In the 1940s, these youth sports and efforts were transferred to city government and became the city’s Department of Recreation, coupled with the Parks Department. Today, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks maintains this legacy by providing soccer to children around the city through its 44 recreation centers and at many of its parks and athletic fields. The annual Charm City Games, a citywide, Olympic-style competition for middle school youth, includes a two-day soccer tournament.

Most recently, Baltimore City Recreation & Parks, Target, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation partnered to increase the soccer footprint across Baltimore City with the installation of three mini-pitches. This effort was guided by the same principles that guided the creation of the Playground Athletic League, city recreational programming, and public open space – that is, unfettered access to green oases and the opportunity to play in a safe and nurturing environment. Our mini-pitches were installed at Betty Hyatt, DeSoto, and Farring-Baybrook Parks. These sites were intentionally chosen to serve their wonderfully diverse communities and to provide these same communities with the opportunity to play soccer right in their neighborhoods.

Betty Hyatt Park sits in the historically-diverse Washington Hill community. Today, much like the African American, Irish, and Polish communities before them, the Latinx community has found a home, and the park is central to that experience. The new mini-pitch has been active and alive with adults, families, and kids playing on the open soccer space almost non-stop (pre-COVID-19).

DeSoto Park sits near an industrial area in a community in need of additional health and wellness assets. DeSoto Park is surrounded by an immigrant community with limited access to safe and clean outdoor spaces and recreational programming. The mini-pitch at DeSoto Park creates an excellent opportunity to provide both unstructured and organized soccer programming to a community in need of such mentorship and active fun. Members of a nearby Hari Krishna Temple use the mini-pitch for children’s after-school soccer games and family fun.

Our mini-pitch at Farring-Baybrook Park sits next to the department’s Community Recreation Center and the adjoining elementary and middle schools. This mini-pitch is a welcome addition and adds to the existing soccer facilities at the park, such as the Farring-Baybrook Athletic Field and William J. Myers Indoor Soccer Pavilion. This mini-pitch will be used for the school’s P.E. classes, for the rec center’s afterschool programming, and by the community’s soccer players.

What makes this mini-pitch even more impactful is how it will be used by our department’s Therapeutic Recreational Programs, which is housed at the Farring-Baybrook Community Rec Center and serves Baltimoreans with special needs and disabilities. Children and adults with disabilities are at an increased risk for health issues such as obesity and cardiovascular disease due to low levels of physical activity and limited access to and participation in sports programming. Our Therapeutic Recreation Team make such beneficial sports programming available to participants. Prior to the outbreak, both unified and adaptive soccer programs were enjoyed at the mini-pitch, engaging those with special needs and disabilities in active fun, improving their motor skills and cardiovascular health.

During these extraordinary days, two parallel themes are resonating – that is 1) the imperative to embed social equity into the decision-making process to afford everyone equal opportunities and 2) our collective need to reconnect to community and to play! Historically, public open spaces, leisure, and recreation were the progressive panacea to many of these social ills. Today, our public parks and play spaces are even more relevant and impactful. Baltimore’s mini-pitches provide an accessible opportunity to unify our diverse communities to enjoy and play the world’s game of soccer. Whether they were born and raised in Highlandtown, Harlem Park, are from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, or Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all are welcome.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation has installed 300 mini-pitches across the country over the last five years. Follow this link to learn more about Safe Places to Play mini-pitches. To learn more about the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s partnership with Target, click here.

Categories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

JOIN US

Join the U.S. Soccer Foundation in the movement to improve lives through soccer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

OUR PARTNERS

  • adidas

    adidas

    adidas, the Foundation’s Safe Places to Play – Mini-Pitch Partner, supports providing children in underserved communities with safe play spaces nationwide. adidas strives to be the globally leading and most popular sporting goods brand. Dedicated to innovation,  adidas embraces creativity and seeks to be socially responsible in all facets of its brand. For more information, please visit adidas.com.

  • APT

    APT

    APT (Advanced Polymer Technology), the Foundation’s Partner for Acrylic Coating Products, is a global leader in high performance sports surfaces. APT provides people around the world with safe, reliable, performance enhancing surfaces. APT’s Laykold Masters acrylic surfacing system will be the official surface of an estimated 500 mini-pitches. For more information on APT, please visit www.sportsbyapt.com.

  • AstroTurf

    AstroTurf

    For athletes and soccer enthusiasts, AstroTurf® is redefining how synthetic soccer fields are built and perform. The brand offers advanced, state-of-the-art synthetic turf systems with proprietary engineered technologies. A growing number of clubs, high schools, colleges, professional sports teams and municipalities continue to select AstroTurf’s LigaTurf-branded products for their premium quality, technical superiority, and safety. To learn more, visit the company’s recently redesigned website, www.astroturf.com/soccer. – See more at: https://ussoccerfoundation.org/article/astroturf-partners-with-the-u.s.-soccer-foundation-as-a-national-partner-for-field-building-program#sthash.FL8E8bAM.dpuf

  • CHA

    CHA

    CHA Sports, the Foundation’s Supplier for Soccer Facility Design and Planning Services, provides community partners with expertise in soccer facility design. CHA Sport’s full service approach allows the company to build world-class projects without breaking budgets. For more information, please visit chacompanies.com

  • The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation believe that participation in sports makes people better. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation have pledged more than $100 million to support youth sports teams and leagues in need.  Through our Sports Matter initiative we strive to increase awareness for underfunded youth athletics nationwide and provide much-needed support through equipment, uniform and monetary donations. For more information on Sports Matter, visit SportsMatter.org.

  • Hunter

    Hunter

    Hunter Industries, the Foundation’s National Partner for Irrigation Equipment, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of irrigation equipment for turf, landscape and soccer fields.  Hunter Industries’ focus is on landscape irrigation with a significant part of its business centering on the proper care and maintenance of sports turf. For more information, please visit hunterindustries.com. Please contact Lynda Wightman, 406-273-3073, lynda.wightman@hunterindustries.com with any questions regarding the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s grants program.

  • Johnson & Johnson

    Johnson & Johnson

    Johnson & Johnson, the Foundation’s grant partner, is dedicated to supporting the next generation of female leaders by providing greater access to girls’ youth soccer programming in underserved communities nationwide. As the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson strives to create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere. For more information, please visit www.jnj.com.

  • Kwik Goal

    Kwik Goal

    Kwik Goal, the Foundation’s Official Supplier for goals, seating, boundary equipment, training equipment and coaching accessories, will be supporting a variety of Foundation programs and initiatives including: Soccer for Success, National Training and the Safe Places to Play program. Over thirty years ago, Kwik Goal was founded on the revolutionary concept of providing transportable goals for coaches at all age levels. Since that time, Kwik Goal has continued to focus on helping coaches and soccer programs create safe and dynamic learning environments by supplying high quality, safety tested soccer goals, field equipment and training equipment to the domestic and international market. For more information, please visit Kwikgoal.com.

  • MLS WORKS

    MLS WORKS

    MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, is dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS WORKS is committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games by executing national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertaking various initiatives in underserved communities.

  • Musco

    Musco

    As a proud corporate partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco is dedicated to helping the major charitable arm of American soccer create new opportunities through high-quality sports lighting. Their Total Light Control—TLC for LED™ technology is engineered as a system with lighting, structural, and electrical components designed to work together for streamlined installation and long-term reliability. TLC for LED delivers superior field lighting while eliminating glare and spill from impacting surrounding neighborhoods. And Musco’s long-term warranty covering parts and labor means U.S. Soccer Foundation partners don’t have to handle any maintenance on their system, or pay for it, for 25 years. Visit https://ussoccerfoundation.org/grants/ to learn more about the grant program and application process.

  • SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports, the preferred provider of shin guards to the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, is a family-owned and operated business specializing in sports equipment, uniforms and apparel. SCORE is an industry leader and has been involved in the sports community for over 40 years. SCORE outfits athletes with high-quality uniforms that SCORE develops, designs and manufactures in the U.S. SCORE takes pride in working with various non-profit groups and causes to give back to athletes who may need some extra support to play the game they love. SCORE is environmentally cautious with the materials it uses for its products and does its part in minimizing our environmental footprint. SCORE proudly offers a wide variety of products to provide customers with a one-stop shop for all your soccer needs. For more information, please visit scoresports.com.

  • Soccer.com

    Soccer.com

    Soccer.com, the Foundation’s National Partner for Soccer Equipment and Uniforms, was founded in 1984 to provide high quality soccer gear at reasonable prices through its nationally circulated catalog. Soccer.com embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit soccer.com.

  • Target

    Target

    Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 million commitment to build 100 new soccer play spaces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation by 2020. This is the latest initiative in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s multi-dimensional approach to the sport of soccer, bringing the game to more kids and families across the country, and unlocking access and increasing involvement at all levels.

  • TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide, the Foundation’s National Partner for Visual Branding (Signage, Event Décor, Pageantry, Sponsorship Activation), Perimeter Field Board Systems, Creative Services and Event Operations is proud to support a variety of initiatives and programs throughout the United States. Headquartered in the U.S., TGI is an internationally recognized sports marketing company delivering high profile Visual Branding, Live Event Management, LED, and cutting edge Digital Sports Applications to enrich the experience at major events and deliver commercial impact for sponsors and partners. The company has a 20-year history in providing its various solutions for many top-tier domestic and international events, organizations, teams and companies, with proven success and turn-key solutions across 1000+ events, 160+ cities and 50+ countries globally.

    For more information on our services, please visit https://www.worldwidetgi.com or contact Mike Squire at msquire@worldwidetgi.com / Phone: 312-371-5852.

  • World Soccer Shop

    World Soccer Shop

    Launched in 2001, World Soccer Shop is an online soccer retailer based in Birmingham, Alabama. It carries one of the world’s widest selections of officially-licensed products from the sport’s top brands and teams. World Soccer Shop is passionate about soccer and endeavors to spread the beautiful game around the world, especially to those in areas of need. For more information, please visit www.worldsoccershop.com.

SHARE YOUR SUPPORT ON SOCIAL

Tweet or post on Facebook and show the world
that you believe in the power of soccer.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter