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Paying it Forward

Nahum’s sports journey started with a ball, just not for soccer.

“I actually started playing baseball,” he shares.

But an injury to the chest quickly spun his interests elsewhere. So did a major life event: he and his younger sibling followed his parents to the United States from Mexico when he was nine years old.

“They moved for the opportunity. Not only for themselves,” he says of his parents, “but for us. There were not many opportunities where we came from.”

Now, a 23-year-old college graduate starting a career in medical engineering, he makes time to prioritize the community that has given him so many opportunities. For him, that means coaching young people in Soccer for Success.

Nahum himself has benefited from youth soccer, and first started playing recreationally in middle school. At first, language barriers kept him out of school soccer teams, but by his sophomore year of high school, Nahum was on the school’s varsity soccer team.

Since becoming a coach-mentor with Soccer for Success in 2014, Nahum estimates he has had 400 local youth on his teams. Nahum and his assistant coaches work with as many as 40 kids three days per week to implement activities and scrimmages. Nahum remembers many of the children from diverse backgrounds, including a child from Somalia who joined the program last season.

“He was a little shy, and stayed with another kid he knew in practice,” Nahum recalls. “But a week later, on Monday, he comes running out of his car yelling ‘coach, coach’ and gives me a hug. It was really surprising because I was not expecting that from him – just to completely embrace everyone at that moment.”

Nahum draws his motivation from the opportunity to help the boys and girls who are often in challenging situations and to foster better community engagement.

“[The program’s] taken on a whole bigger focus and there’s more activities for everyone to be involved. Not just the players and the coaches, the parents and the families,” Nahum says. “This year, I have a lot of parents coming out and watching, helping with warm-ups, stuff like that.”

And Nahum’s impact is a gift that continues to give through the number of youth who come back to help, even after they’ve gone on to middle and high school.

“The middle school that they go to is just two blocks up the street,” he says. “The kids come back to volunteer, to be mentors themselves. That is success I can see right away. The kids in high school – I see them coming back and as leaders.”

Soccer for Success coach-mentors teach kids the fundamentals of soccer, but also strive to help children build confidence and recognize the value of hard work, teamwork and persistence in achieving personal goals. By learning what it takes to play a team sport, kids are preparing to be productive citizens.

“What motivates me is the opportunity to make an impact,” Nahum says. “I’ve had great opportunities come my way and I’ve met some great people who have made a difference in my life. I know personally how much impact a role model, a coach-mentor can have on a young person. It’s something that drives me personally.”

Looking back on his journey with the program, he never would have thought he would be where he is today, nor as involved as he is.

“I thought it would be just coaching,” Nahum says. “But the more and more I got into it, and the more time I spent with [the kids], it’s much more than just coaching. Being that coach-mentor for them goes beyond just giving them a ball and saying, ‘go this way, go that way.’ You realize how much they listen to you and how much they value your feedback.”

Moving forward, one thing Nahum knows for certain is his love for the game and helping the kids in his community.

“It’s really not a job to me,” Nahum says. “I’ve never done anything this rewarding. I want to do this for as long as I can.”

Soccer for Success coach-mentors are able to have a positive impact on the kids and communities they serve. Learn more about the program that engages kids and trained coach-mentors.