Two dozen kids from Reading Recreation were at Alvernia University earlier this week mixing it up with the women’s soccer team as special guests in the second annual 'See It Be It Game' on the Reading campus.
‘See It, Be It’ is a Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer initiative supported by US Soccer's Innovate to Grow Fund. It’s aimed at giving kids - particularly those in under-resourced communities - exposure to individuals and environments that inspire and motivate them.
“It’s an opportunity for youth soccer players to see what their future can hold,” said head coach Amanda Bezner. “If they work hard on the field, and academically, it's important for the kids to have people to look up to and to see all that's attainable for them.”
This year’s game was a non-conference bout with Lancaster Bible College. The special guest from Reading Rec had a chance to see the campus, visit with the players and walk them out pre-game.
“Just to see their eyes light up when they're on the big field is incredible,” Bezner said. “I love the game and I've loved it all my life and I love to give back to the community any way we can and our girls just love to be someone that the kids can look up to.”
Golden Wolves captain Liv Malone, a Sinking Spring native who was also part of the game last year, said the presence of the special guests was felt right away. One 5-year-old in the group even ran out to participate in the team huddle before kickoff.
“The energy that they bring to the field to the game is so different than what we bring; they just get so into it, they're so excited,” Malone said. “They were running around the track before the game and were just so hype you can't help but smile.”
Malone, a junior nursing student who played at FC Revolution and Conrad Weiser HS prior to college, has been giving back in the game since she was in middle school, hoping to inspire young players the way she herself was inspired as a young girl.
“It makes you realize that soccer is so much bigger than just going out there and winning the game being able to be the source of inspiration for these kids,” Malone said. “It's really rewarding being able to stand out there in the starting lineup, have your name announced then have these little kids cheer you on and step out with you.”
Malone knows from personal experience the transformative power of having an older role model in the game. When she was in middle school she was paired up with a high school soccer player mentor named Kennedy Lutz. Lutz went on to play soccer at Albright College and remains a close friend to this day.
“She was a huge inspiration and was actually why I changed my number,” Malone said. “I’ve worn number 13 ever since.”
The Alvernia game is the first of two ‘See It, Be It’ games scheduled this fall.
Elizabethtown College’s women’s team will host a game on October 28 at 3:30 p.m. vs Lycoming.
"It is our job to help soccer expose youth to things that are good for their future,” said JT Dorsey, Grassroots Soccer Manager for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. “Having a chance to walk on a college campus, on the field and see the possibilities that can come from playing this game can make a huge impact. ‘See it, Be It’ is specially designed for that. We hope more colleges and universities reach out to help create these experiences for youth."
For more information or if you want to participate, contact JT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credits: Chase Young and Marisa Lombardo