Bridging the Gap Through Soccer
Three Saint Joseph’s alumni teamed up with the Department of Athletics last summer to bring minority athletes to campus for a soccer skills training camp.
It was a sort of homecoming for Sherman Washington ’09, James Burks ’08 and Dom Landry ’08, who founded the Athletic Club of Fairhill, a North Philadelphia nonprofit that provides athletic opportunities for low-income children. The club hosted its annual soccer skills camp at Sweeney Field on the Hawk Hill campus with some help from University athletes.
“We realized that we wanted to do something to impact Black and brown kids and underprivileged communities, but didn't want to tackle the typical programs,” Washington says. “Not that there's anything wrong with those programs, but basketball, football and boxing are the typical programs in our community.”
That’s how the group decided on soccer. Landry played for the Hawks men’s soccer team as an undergraduate student and helped lead the camp last summer.
“It was very nostalgic for me to be playing soccer with kids who were born when I was going to school,” he says.
The skills camp brought roughly 150 young athletes ages 3 to 17 to Hawk Hill, where they worked with both men’s and women’s soccer players and coaches on passing, dribbling, shooting and other skills.
“HITS is a way to bridge the gap for Philadelphia youth to get on campus through sports and have a touch point with Saint Joseph’s athletics, the University, our student-athletes, our coaches and to see, touch and feel campus." - Erick Woods ’01, director of student-athlete development
For Burks, Washington and Landry, the other advantage of hosting a soccer camp on campus is to expose Philadelphia youth to a college campus just a few miles away from where they live.
“There are so many things that are in your own city that you may not see or may not know.” Burks says. “You might not have to travel across the world or around the country to go to a really good school.”
For Saint Joseph’s, the camp is part of the athletics department’s larger mission called Hawk Inclusion Through Sport, or HITS, says Erick Woods ’01, director of student-athlete development and a former minority student-athlete at the University.
“HITS is a way to bridge the gap for Philadelphia youth to get on campus through sports and have a touch point with Saint Joseph’s athletics, the University, our student-athletes, our coaches and to see, touch and feel campus," Woods says. "We hope to replicate this model for all of our sports across the board and partner with those inner-city organizations to bring them to campus to have them interact with their respective teams here on campus."
AC Fairhill is planning to host a soccer skills camp on campus again this summer, though dates are still to be determined.