New soccer club a hit among local youth

posted on September 27, 2012

Last Saturday featured an unusual event on the Red Cloud playing fields – soccer games.

This wouldn’t be out of the ordinary in most places, but soccer – despite its worldwide popularity – has never been a staple of the reservation sports scene. In a place where basketball is nearly universal, and even golf has been becoming more and more popular, soccer has not gotten widespread local attention…until now.

The Tȟab Naȟtakapi (Lakota for “soccer”) Club is Oglala Lakota College's Civic Engagement Program and the Big Foot Conference Schools’ effort to provide sports activities for youth in grades K-4, since sports promote both physical activity and community involvement. The club’s creators recognized that for local children within that age range, there aren't any organized sports activities besides some pee-wee basketball tournaments (and the monthly school powwows, which could fit into the category of physical activity for kids who take part).

According to Mary Tobacco ’86 who is overseeing the new program, “Soccer is the perfect sports activity to provide. The kids really, really seem to like it! Everyone gets a chance to play. It’s new, it’s challenging, and most of all it’s fun. Soccer requires a lot of physical movement, which is important, and it is pretty inexpensive once you have the start-up equipment. Furthermore, it can be played indoors and outdoors on any kind of playing field. I have become a fan!”

Tobacco helps OLC president Tom Shortbull with the Civic Engagement Program, and also partners with the Athletic Directors of all 13 reservation schools (who make up the so-called Big Foot Athletic Conference), in order to train and provide officials for basketball, football, and volleyball. She says that last year, some of the Red Cloud School staff asked OLC to help improve sports offerings for K-4th grade students, and the Tȟab Naȟtakapi Club was born.

Tobacco and other supporters presented the idea to the Athletic Directors, and they decided whether or not they wanted to give soccer a try this fall within their respective schools. Those who did agreed to identify coaching staff, provide transportation on game days, and have practice times in their respective schools.

OLC, for its part, committed to provide support for coaching staff and equipment, including shoes for the schools that submitted lists of students in need. The college also provided soccer nets to the host schools like Red Cloud and Pine Ridge because they agreed to host the sites and will provide concessions, referees, and support staff on game days.

Saturday’s matches at Red Cloud were the first event that the club hosted, and children and families turned out in force. The weather was perfect, and all involved appeared to be enjoying themselves tremendously.

Tobacco found the day to be a great success. “Red Cloud has been awesome to work with,” she said. “Many of the volunteers have soccer experience from playing in high school and college, and since it’s so new to the rest of us, their experience has made the effort much easier and enjoyable. We're also really thankful to Pine Ridge for agreeing to be a host site for next week. It takes a lot of volunteer time and personal commitment on game days.”

When asked about where the program is going now that it has gotten off to a strong start, Tobacco stated, “There is definitely a future for soccer here on the Pine Ridge Reservation. We just have to secure some funding for the future to help the schools stay involved. Also, we need to create other opportunities for the kids in that age group to continue to engage in sports activities because it promotes health, wellness, teamwork, and community involvement.”

If you like soccer and want to support our kids as they learn the game, we’ll see you on Saturday at the Pine Ridge School playing fields!

To see a photo gallery of Saturday's game, click HERE.