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YMCA Soccer Program Brings Kids to Campus

Minnesota State Mankato donates use of field for camps.

Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 8-21-2012

Mohamed McMahon has picked up a few skills after six years playing soccer.

He was showing off a few of them on the big, open soccer field behind Gage Complex at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Having played with friends in his neighborhood (but never on an actual team), he’s learned some impressive tricks, like how to keep kicking a ball in the air without letting it drop to the ground. “I did it like 50 times the other day,” he said.

But until recently, McMahon had never played in a real game.

And while his footwork and agility are pretty sharp for an 11- year- old, McMahon has been benefiting a great deal from the YMCA’s first Soccer Leadership Camp, acquir­ing skills he hasn’t been able to learn in pickup games around his neighborhood.

Teamwork, good sportsmanship and the actual rules of the game are just a few of them, and he’s learning them from Minnesota State Mankato soccer coaches and other adults who have been playing the game since childhood.

McMahon’s experience is similar to many of the other 20 kids who have taken part in the camp, held the first four Wednesdays in August. It’s also an experience Cheryl Hamond envisioned when she presented the program idea to the YMCA.

Hamond, YMCA program coordinator, lives in City Center Mankato, and she has watched numerous children of all ages and nationalities play soccer on the hillside of the courthouse. “I call it a color crayon box of kids, which I love to see,” Hamond said, describing her neighborhood.

But the ground isn’t flat, and even where kids are finding spaces to play soccer in neighborhoods, there often isn’t enough space to get a good game going.

“I thought maybe there was something the Y could do.”

Many of the children’s families don’t have the resources or means of transportation to sign them up for youth soccer programs, Hamond said. So she decided to solve all those issues through a YMCA- sponsored program. And Minnesota State Mankato partnered by donating use of the soccer field, as well as through coaching help.

Free of charge, the Y provides a small bus to pick up about 20 kids in grades 5- 8 at four different stops in the area and takes them to the Minnesota State Mankato soccer field, where they work on drills with coaches and then play a game. Afterward, they’re taken to Rasmussen Woods where there’s a guest speaker to talk about life experiences. They’re also provided lunch.

This week’s speaker was Ebrima Fatty, a Gambia, Africa, immigrant who grew up in a rough New York neighborhood without parents around to tell him to cook meals or tell him to go to school, he said.

“It was only me and the help of God,” he said.

Fatty has been playing soccer since he was 7 years old, and now he plays a lot of pickup games with kids in his neighborhood near Kennedy Elementary School. He also is involved in the Brother/ Sister program through the YMCA, which is how he got involved in helping coach kids with the Soccer Leadership Camp. He even picked up a few kids to bring them to Wednesday’s camp.

Hamond said the students, especially some of the immigrant children, benefit a great deal from Fatty’s example. And they are grateful to him, to her and to the coaches for the camp experience. One of the students even brought Hamond sambusa his mother had made for her as a thank- you.

While outnumbered, the girls are having fun too, they said.

“It’s good,” said Kody Kesselring. “I like to learn new things about soccer.”

Kesselring’s goal for this week’s game was similar to the others: “Try to make more goals.”

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories on-line at

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