Sure, kids on soccer teams learn footwork, how to line up a goal and when to step in for an assist, but Bowie resident Nate Baker thinks playing soccer is more than just an accumulation of skills.
That’s why Baker, along with his wife and brother, started Soccer Means More about a year and a half ago.
Soccer Means More prides itself on being a community-based elite soccer company that helps local kids get better at soccer, but Baker also wants to use soccer to help prepare them for life.
“Hard work, community, being part of a team—things that translate from the soccer field into real life,” Baker said, who is the organization's executive director.
Baker, who spent four years playing soccer professionally in the United Soccer League Second Division, got his start playing with the Bowie Boys & Girls Club. He strives to act as a good role model to his players and to send the kids from his workshops home with more than just honed soccer skills.
“We mentor them and share our experiences on how the sport can mean more,” said Baker.
When he realized that his professional playing career was coming to an end for various reasons, he decided to start a soccer company that took more of a mentoring approach, surrounding players with younger coaches that have the kids’ best interests at heart.
“I feel like the Boys & Girls Club and so many people introduced the game to me, and I would not have had the opportunities that I’ve had at this point,” said Baker, who got to travel and even met his wife while playing professionally.
The organization offers for-fee workshops and seasional sessons for kids who want more specialized training in specific postion, but they also regulary do no-cost workshops.
"Every six months we do these free community workshops to give kids opportunities to train with high end players who are young enough that they are not so far removed from where kids are now," Baker said.
Soccer Means More has partnered with several Boys & Girls Clubs in Prince George’s County for their free clinics, to give local kids the opportunity to give the sport a try. The next clinic is this Saturday.
Baker said kids in the county are interested in soccer, but there are not enough opportunities for them to exercise that interest.
“We love that we are able to be the first impression and we hope that gets them to sign up for a league outside of us,” Baker said.
The free clinic this Saturday is from noon to 4 p.m. in Glenn Dale. Baker said he’s putting together a great day for the kids and their families. Kids between ages 7 and 12 with any range of soccer experience are welcome to attend.
“We hope that at the end they take the lessons and learned and use them in school or the community,” Baker said.
For more information on Soccer Means More, or to sign up for this weekend’s workshop, check out their website.