Harlem, New York - As part of their commitment to promote a healthy lifestyle for kids, Citi for the second consecutive year has partnered again with the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) as they kicked off the WPS 2011 season with their "Get Active with Citi Soccer Kids" community program for the children in Harlem.
Citi and WPS has every intention of hosting additional Get Active with Citi Soccer Kids clinics throughout this season, as part of the WPS league-wide platform to promote First Lady Michelle Obama’s nationwide campaign against childhood obesity.
Representing the WPS was the 2009 WPS Champions SKY Blue FC. Prior to the Sky Blue FC kicking off their 2011 Women's Professional Soccer League campaign in a 2-2 tie against the Philadelphia Independence, midfielder Allie Long and defender-midfielder Kendall Flectcher helped Citi run this successful soccer clinic in Harlem, where 60 children between the ages 8-12 participated.
These kids were from America SCORES, the after-school program which empowers students in urban communities through soccer, poetry and community service.
Also in attendance was Kristina Hentschel, WPS Corporate Development Officer Kristina & CFO who flew in from San Francisco, California to be part of this event.
In addition to Kristina's presence was Leon Othen, Regional Director for WPS Soccer camps who not only leads a well-run clinic, but also conducted an educational clinic for the volunteers of America Scores NY.
“We are thrilled to be involved with the WPS for yet another exciting and competitive season full of great soccer,” said Bill Brown, New York City Region Executive, Citibank.
“This partnership affords us the wonderful opportunity to support women’s athletics, share the experience of professional soccer with local communities and promote healthy living through our Get Active with Citi Soccer Kids program.”
What was captivating about this clinic is the synergy that was taking place on the pitch. The coaches, the children and the America Scores volunteers were all in sync as they enthusiastically participated in drills and scrimmages.
“The Get Active with Citi Soccer Kids program is a wonderful way to strengthen our relationships with the communities in which our teams play,” said Kristina Hentschel, Corporate Development Officer and CFO of WPS.
“We are proud to have Citi return for a second season as a founding partner of WPS and this upcoming clinic illustrates the positive impact we can make by working together.”
Following the clinic, both Allie and Kendall answered questions asked by the children in attendance. Not only did both players represent the WPS honorably, their presence signified the importance of having a women's soccer league.
One thing I observed with great attention was that the children from America SCORES NY were happy to have met two professional athletes. They didn't care that it was two women who played soccer because they cared more for two professional soccer athletes who took the time out of their schedule to give them a memory that they'll never forget.
While the WPS has done a marvelous job in promoting their league and securing a TV deal with Fox Soccer Channel, there's still not enough coverage. Despite the fact they have Marta, Five-Time FIFA World Player of the Year playing for Western New York, the WPS remains neglected.
As the WPS enters what many believe to be the most crucial season in their league's three-year history, there's a lot to be optimistic about. While they may be a six-team league, they've endured and have made the necessary adjustments for another season.
Question the location, fans and WPS officials commitment towards the WPS but that's still not addressing the real problem. When it's said and done, some of us in the media have made the decision to neglect the WPS in favor of other leagues and international superstars.
While I may not have the answers, I was willing to ask SKY Blue FC players Allie and Kendall on what journalists can do to help promote the WPS. They suggested that the media should write a weekly roundup of the WPS.
Another suggestion: Instead of focusing on the league, journalists should focus on the the athletes and the community service activities they do as representatives for their respected teams.
If I learned anything from the soccer clinic is that while organizations like Citi continues to sponsor the efforts and commitment of Women's Professional Soccer, readers will not know about it if I don't do my part in writing about the WPS and the magic they bring to the children who participate in these soccer clinics.
For more information on Citi, please go to www.citigroup.com
For more information about the WPS, please go to www.womensprosoccer.com
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He's also a Columnist for USSoccerPlayers.com; Your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.