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Monday, 09 August 2010 00:00

Atticus Hoffman and One World Soccer

Atticus Hoffman founded this four-day soccer camp when he was fourteen with the seed of a dream. “My family was in Sweden during one of the world’s biggest soccer camps, the Gothia World Youth Cup. We spent a lot of time there that summer and I kind of had a dream of creating some sort of international soccer camp in Boise. Then, my dad came home from the Y one night after seeing local refugee kids getting a tour and it got me thinking.

For me, that’s how it all started. ”He got on his bike and proceeded to ask a variety of sponsors to help, gathering balls, shoes, and
shin guards for every child, as well as food, transportation, goal nets, water containers, a location, tee shirts, and much more. To his surprise not a single person said no. His mother, Samantha Silva, recalls, “I think that was one thing Atticus learned that summer. If you have a great idea and you are working hard to bring it about, people actually say ‘yes’ when you ask hem for money and support.”

That first summer his family, volunteers, and friends from Atticus’ own soccer club, Rush, showed up, expecting about 30 kids. The bus rolled up on schedule, full of eager youngsters from five to 18. A large crowd, however, remained back at the meeting point, waiting for the bus to return. In all it took three trips to transport more than 80 young people to the park. Atticus says that he was slightly in shock that first week. “I was urprised that the camp was even happening,” and things were crazy as they rounded up more equipment. Soon he found himself talking to the media for the first time and people looking to him for direction.

On this last Friday, four years later, I saw a poised young man of seventeen, very relaxed as he strolled between snack stations for the different age groups, greeted visitors, thanked volunteers, talked to members of the press, laughed with his friends, shouted for order, distributed lunches, and talked with every child who wanted his attention.

Asked if he was shy the first year, he nodded “I was only fourteen and I couldn’t do that much to organize things–that is the biggest difference for me between the first camp and the one this week. Now I can make things work and the kids listen. It definitely makes things easier to be older and have some experience.”

This year the camp had over 110 participants with an average of 85 each morning from 9 to 12. For most of the morning the children split up into age groups overseen by adult volunteers and young coaches from local soccer teams. Each group has a snack station with an endless supply of water and quantities of garlic pita bread. The little ones get tired after a couple of hours and sit in the shade, hunt for butterflies in the clover, or get piggy-back rides from the older girls.

The oldest participants are seriously training, honing skills previously learned in dusty streets or holding camps all over the world. At the end of the morning there is traditionally a game between the coaches and the kids followed by a brown bag lunch. This year at least eight countries are represented, including Rwanda, Burundi, Bosnia, Russia, and Afghanistan. Yasmin Aguilar and the Agency for New Americans have been instrumental in reaching out to a variety of families new to the area and to the culture. She knows all the participants, calls everyone by
name, and adds a serene confidence to the hectic activity of the day.

I found myself drawn to the pre-teen girls running gracefully through the sun and dappled shade. Although there have been girls involved since the first year, they have become increasingly interested in the game itself and this year there was enough involvement to allow two all-girl groups divided by age. Atticus says, “The first year the girls weren’t sure they wanted to play. Many mostly watched, but now they are really active and many are signing up to play during the school year.”

Atticus submitted a thirty-second YouTube video in competition with 120 other entries this spring, winning a grant $10,000 from Consumer Financial Solutions. This funding will allow any player who wishes to continue with the sport to be part of local soccer leagues this fall. Many Boise businesses and individuals have made this event a success including Idaho Rush Soccer Club, Full Circle Exchange, the Boise Co-Op,
Idaho Youth Soccer Association and Port of Subs.

At the end of the day not a speck of garbage was left on the grass. Volunteers quickly gathering equipment and helping children find their gear and their buses. It was difficult to tell who was smiling more, the children, the volunteers, or the proud parents. The One World Soccer camp is a sure testament both to the Power of One and to the incredible things that can be achieved when people work together.

Atticus Hoffman calls soccer “The Beautiful Game” and it was a beautiful game that I witnessed on Friday. 

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