Camino United empowering youth through free soccer program

Two years after the program launched, leaders say it's helping kids be part of a team and stay off the streets.

As many across our area are seeking solutions to youth crime, a Charlotte nonprofit is doing its part to help.

Camino United is transforming the lives of kids through sports. Camino is one of 11 groups who received a mini soccer field through Charlotte FC’s Pitches for Progress initiative.

The pitch was opened two years ago, starting with just 8 players. Now, it’s grown to 45 players with leaders saying it’s having a positive impact on children one drill at a time.

Patricio Narvaez is one of those players taking advantage of that field of opportunities.

“The teamwork, all of the moves, especially when you clear a ball pass to people and it feels good to play with others,” he said.

He is a defender, learning skills and letting his feet do the talking.

“They have to make sure to clear the ball so that the goalkeeper does not have to do all of the work,” said Narvaez.

The mini pitch is one of a dozen across Charlotte bringing soccer closer to home.

 “It’s a nice place where I can go play and have fun that is near me,” said Narvaez. “A lot of fields are like 20 to 30 minutes away and hard to get to.”

Through Camino United, he even got a chance to go to his first Charlotte FC game.

“We were next to all of the Charlotte FC fans,” Narvaez said. “The energy, the spirit, it felt good to hear all of those people cheer.”

His coach Samuel Aguilera gets to pass on his passion for the sport something he said he did not have growing up.

“It helps kids stay off the streets,” said Aguilera. “They have somewhere to come…  a home they can come to and play the sport.”

Aguilera is sharing drills that go beyond the field.

“Teaching them discipline, respect for each other,” said Aguilera. “Working with them and seeing that they can become something better in life.”

Ultimately the program hopes to see kids score goals on and off the field. The program is free and anyone interested can contact Aguilera at Sam.a@camino.org.

 
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