Harrison, NJ - Despite the New York Red Bulls current road trip, Red Bull Arena was very much alive and available for some of their special fans.
On Tuesday June 21, 2010, Red Bull Arena opened it's doors to the children of Just One Soccer League (JOSL) for a school year-end celebration that they earned. Arranged by the coaches and board of JOSL, the children and their parents arrived to Red Bull Arena in two buses.
Run by Executive Director Oscar Rodriguez, JOSL was established in 1996. It's a program which promotes soccer as a recreational alternative.
By ignoring the competitive aspect of youth soccer, JOSL is a program which through their volunteers is able to educate their young participants of the importance of good sportsmanship and of investing and giving back to their community as their volunteers have exemplified time after time.
Every coach involved has to possess a minimum “F” License through New Jersey Youth Soccer Association. Taking this seriously, each year JOSL hosts an “F” License Certification Course to be attended by interested coaches from North Jersey.
In addition to volunteer involvement, parents are also expected to participate because while the program is a healthy alternative for their children, the parental involvement and encouragement provides a powerful statement on the impact each individual can make in their program and community.
Seeing the enthusiasm and joy in the children's faces who were wearing their JOSL t-shirts was a pleasure to see because for many of them, this was their first time at Red Bull Arena. One thing that not too many people know about the New York Red Bulls is that they're very involved in both the New York and New Jersey communities.
Led by Training Programs Representative Steve Jones, the children of JOSL and their parents were given an exclusive tour of Red Bull Arena. Throughout the tour, Jones engaged with the children as he answered their questions, and vice versa. Not only did the children willingly participate, they also demonstrated they were indeed Red Bulls fans.
The highlight for the tour was when the children were shown the Holding Cells where rowdy fans are placed for their incorrigible behavior. While they laughed at that, they were also awed to hear that the Red Bulls team locker room had a hot tub and possibly an Xbox.
Following the tour, each child in attendance was given a Red Bull t-shirt and a certificate of participation. What I found interesting is that whether the children recognize or not, they are indeed applying the philosophy that is stressed in JOSL.
Not once did a child even ask if there were any players around or if they could have a Red Bull.
They were simply appreciative of the experience and proudly represented their program as they gave Steve Jones the respect he deserved throughout the tour. After the tour concluded, families took their pictures before returning to their buses so they can return to their designated site.
As I watched the bus pull away, I was glad to have met Oscar Rodriguez in December at Red Bull Arena during the World Cup Draw. During our conversation, I agreed to write an article about JOSL when I felt the timing was right.
While the score is important to follow, I'm also interested in the impact this beautiful game has locally and globally in our communities.
One thing I've learned as a sports fan and now a sportswriter is that players come and go but global issues and dreams remains. In addition to following the game, I make it a point to look behind stats and scores. Tuesday's tour served as a reminder why I love this beautiful game.
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 email@example.com and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.