New York, NY- As part of its partnership with Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), Citi hosted its Get Active with Citi Soccer Kids clinic on Thursday as part of the WPS Championship weekend.
Get Active with Citi Soccer Kids is part of the WPS leaguewide platform to promote and support First Lady Michelle Obama's nationwide campaign against childhood obesity.
For the 2011 WPS, Citi has successfully conducted clinics in New York City, Philadelphia, Miami and Boston.
Prior to Saturday's WPS Championship between the Western New York Flash and the Philadelphia Independence, children from the YMCA of Greater New York and America SCORES NY were treated a soccer clinic at Bryant Park.
Along with Bryant Park a few blocks away from Times Square, what made this Citi's soccer clinic unique is that it was conducted by U.S. Women's Soccer Legends Michelle Akers and Tiffeny Milbrett, who were also joined by Atlanta Beat and U.S. Women's World Cup player Carli Lloyd.
With the atmosphere filled with enthusiasm and children's laughter as the clinic took place, the only force that was able to literally stop the clinic was the heavy rainfall that fell upon everyone present. Despite the clinic concluding earlier than anticipated, the children from the YMCA and America SCORES NY remained in high spirits underneath the umbrellas that were stationed at one of the entrances.
While the Citi organizers handed out t-shirts and soccer balls to every child, WPS CFO Kristina Hentschel showed off the WPS Trophy which the winning WPS team of Saturday's championship contest will have the opportunity to hoist over their heads.
The children bombarded Hentschel with questions about the time and channel the WPS Champions match was going to take place. In addition, they wanted to know more about the WPS and which players they should follow.
While underneath the umbrella surrounded by a sea of children, I had the privilege of interviewing Michelle Akers and Carli Lloyd. The children in my area were fantastic and courteous as some of them told their friends to lower their voices so I could conduct my interviews.
Since it's not often I get to conduct an interview with former and current world-class soccer players like Akers and Lloyd in front of attentive children underneath an umbrella, I did my best to make sure that my interviews would reinforce the WPS, U.S. Women's National Team, Michelle Akers and Carli Lloyd in their minds.
The children thought it was sensational that Akers, who was with her six-year-old son, Cody, owned a horse ranch in Atlanta, Georgia.
While they were impressed that Akers had represented the USWNT for 15 years and won two World Cups (1991 & 1999), they were thrilled to hear that she ran a non-profit horse rescue farm named the Michelle Akers Sundance Horse Resuce & Outreach, Inc.
As they listened to our conversation, they learned the hard work that goes into running a horse rescue and the time and energy she puts forth in creating an awareness about horse care and horse abuse.
She was also candid about the paperwork and fundraising necessary to keep the horse rescue running.
For more information about the Michelle Akers Sundance Horse Rescue, please go to: www.michelleakershorserescue.com.
Following my conversation with Michelle Akers, I spoke with Carli Lloyd and knowing that I had the children's attention, I simply asked her about Women's Professional Soccer and the plans for the Atlanta Beat.
Without missing a beat, the New Jersey native stated that anyone is able to follow the WPS and Atlanta Beat online. In addition, fans can follow her at Twitter @CarliLlyod and her website www.CarliLloyd.com.
When asked about her World Cup experience, Lloyd smiled and stated, "The World Cup was an amazing experience. It's something I'll never forget and it was fantastic how we were able to show millions worldwide on how good our team is."
Throughout our brief but educational conversation, Lloyd admitted that being a professional soccer player is a tough livelihood because of the travel, training and sometimes the schedule, but it's something she wouldn't trade for anything.
She is a strong believer that American soccer is a grassroots movement that has grown over the years and will continue to grow in time.
Along with the importance of keeping children indirectly engaged during an interview with athletes, I also learned that while organizations like Citi continue to sponsor the efforts and commitment of Women's Professional Soccer, I hope readers will embrace the WPS and the magic they and Citi 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 also writes for 5 Points Press & 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.