Roots, Soul soccer clubs bring qualified coaches to Oakland youth

Oakland, CA - The Oakland Roots and Soul soccer teams are bringing their expertise to local elementary schools in a program to bring Oakland students more access to sports.

One of the biggest barriers for kids in underserved communities is a lack of qualified coaches to train them, so the club created the Oakland Coach Academy.

The Oakland Coach Academy will provide extensive training, so coaches can help the next generation of pro soccer players from the Town.

It’s an ongoing partnership between the club and Oakland Unified School District, with the goal of bringing inclusive soccer to all 51 elementary schools by the time the FIFA World Cup comes to the Bay Area in 2026.

"We can’t introduce a sports program without caring adults being part of it," said Chen Kong-Wick with the OUSD Expanded Learning Office.

On Saturday, the club provided a free soccer clinic at the Highland Community Elementary School in East Oakland, along with non-profit Girls Leading Goals as part of the program.

Even Roots defender Baboucarr Njie joined the fun.

"At this stage, they’re looking way better than I was when I was younger," Nije said. "It’s important for the youth to hold on to some type of sport, especially for young girls because I feel like for girls, you’re very limited and you’re told you can’t most of the time, when it comes to sports."

They’re building confidence in the girls, all while running drills and teaching them how to pass and defend the goal.

Adults are getting something out of it as well, like Coach Clarence Mule, who has been coaching youth sports in Oakland for 13 years. This is his first time coaching soccer.

"They’re giving me opportunity, like they do these kids, that I wouldn’t be able to afford, like this coaching clinic, but through this program, I’m able to go there," said Mule. "I’m hoping one of these girls will be playing for the Soul soon. I think I got some prospects out here!"

It all comes at no cost to the kids or the coaches.

Academy graduates will leave with official accreditations from the US Soccer Federation as well as training in first aid, youth mental health, and critical social-emotional intelligence skills.