Tacoma Soccer Center and Tacoma United Work Together to Help Underserved Youth
Head into the Tacoma Soccer Center on any recent weekend, and it’s highly likely you’ll hear multiple languages being spoken on the facility’s two indoor playing fields. Of course, when it comes to the game itself, the only language that matters is the language of soccer.
This fall, the Tacoma Soccer Center — a 50,000 square-foot complex just north of the Tacoma Dome hosts youth and adult leagues, sports conditioning courses and other sports programming on a year-round basis — opened its doors to teams from Tacoma United, a Washington Youth Soccer club catering to mostly Spanish-speaking players from throughout the Tacoma area.
Tacoma United was created in 2009 by Tony Echaniz and a team of coaches and volunteers to create pathways into Washington Youth Soccer for hundreds of lower-income players throughout the Tacoma area. Without a true “home field” of their own, Tacoma United has fostered relationships with Tacoma Public Schools and the Metropolitan Parks Association to find practice fields for its players, an estimated 90 percent of whom speak Spanish as their primary language.
Starting this fall and winter, Tacoma Soccer Center owner Lane Smith allowed Tacoma United’s teams to rent time on its fields at reduced rates, a favor he extended to league fees as well. Co-Manager Dave Whitesell, who runs the Center’s Lil’ Kickers program, says the relationship has had mutual benefits to the club and the center.
“Lane Smith, our owner, wanted to extend an olive branch to help meet the needs of the club, which faces some economic challenges,” Whitesell says. “It’s been great for us to have those teams here. Not only are there the altruistic benefits of helping others, but the Tacoma United teams bring a diversity and passion for soccer that’s fun to see. They take the game seriously, and bring a unique brand of soccer to our leagues.”
Whitesell adds that the Tacoma United coaches have also helped the relationship run smoothly.
“They are all great people to work with,” he says. “It’s been fun.”