New York's Most Diverse Youth Soccer Club
If not for the previous week's snowstorm, the sunny Saturday morning in early February of 2009 would have been the perfect day for soccer tryouts for a new Under 13 boys team. The tryout was scheduled for South Bronx High School, and by mid-morning the snow on the turf surface had nearly all melted away. However, the field remained closed and locked. Tryouts were relocated to a baseball field in St. Mary’s Park. Here, the snow did not melt away quite so serenely. Not long after twenty-two 11 to 13 year old boys descended on the field, the grass soon dissolved into a pit of mud and puddles. One muddy mess later, South Bronx United was born.
South Bronx United was born out of the idea that community youth needed a engaging program to connect to and keep them off the streets, and that youth passionate about and talented in soccer should have a program in which to develop.
Although, that first team finished 1-8-1 in the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League U13 division against teams from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan it was the start of something big. South Bronx United (SBU) was the first soccer program in the South Bronx affiliated with US Youth Soccer and the only program with the goal of uniting youth from all the diverse backgrounds that make up the Bronx, including Latin American, African, Caribbean, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern.
That summer interest grew from children and parents alike grew leading to the formation of two more travel teams that fall. Results on the field improved dramatically. The U14 boys finish 8-1-0 to place second in their division, and the U12 and U16 boys finished 5-5-0 respectively.
Recreational Program for All
Education is Key
In the spring of 2010, South Bronx United launched the Recreational Program to provide all children with the opportunity to play soccer and improve their health and fitness in a safe and structured environment. Nearly 300 children, between the ages of 4 and 19, registered to participate in the first season. The organization also established a partnership with Peter Rabbit Organics to provide free healthy, fruit-based snacks to all children.
A fourth travel team, Under-19 boys kicked off in the Spring, which yielded South Bronx United's first few graduates. In the summer, an Under-11 boys group, SBU 99 la Furia Azul, also was started.
South Bronx United also launched its educational programming in order to help youth in the classroom as well as on the pitch. In May 2010, the first College Prep Night was held to orient youth towards their college options, and South Bronx United held the inaugural College Showcase Tournament, which led to the first college scholarship offer for a SBU player. Directors helped one middle school student gain admission into Manhattan Country School, a prestigious private school with a social justice mission. In October 2010, South Bronx United started an After School Tutoring Program to serve all youth in the travel program. It is held daily at the Urban Assembly School for Careers in Sports. College Prep Program activities expanded to include test preparation and application assistance. Coaches started to follow players' academic progress to ensure youth were succeeding educationally as well.
All programs and accomplishments in the first two years were achieved without a single paid staff member and over 100 dedicated volunteers.
Equal Opportunity for Girls
In the Spring of 2011, SBU kicked off its first girls travel program. The high school girls team, the Rising Stars, began official competition in the Fall, playing in a tournament in Long Island and New Jersey and finishing 0-2-1 in the Westchester Youth Soccer League (WYSL).
The Summer Soccer Scholars program was held for the first time providing 4 weeks of day programming for 55 youth, in academics, life skills, fitness, and soccer.
In 2011, South Bronx United also brought on paid staff for the first time: Executive Director Andrew So and Director of Operations Carlos Bhanji, as well as a Director of Development and After School Tutoring Coordinator.
South Bronx United's greatest accomplishment was seeing 11 high school seniors graduate the program. Ten moved on the 4 year colleges and one to a junior college.
Every day, South Bronx United continues to work towards its mission of helping at-risk youth build character, teamwork, and leadership skills so that they can achieve success in high school, college, their careers and communities, and beyond. South Bronx United strives to promote educational achievement, health and wellness, and character development among youth through activities on and off the soccer field and to UNITE a diverse group of individuals from an incredibly diverse community toward common positive goals.