In Sioux City, Soccer Sizzles
By Kathy Vilim Dagroomes
A March cold snap in Iowa couldn't keep "Soccer and Scouting" from getting a warm reception in Siouxland.
The BSA's new Soccer and Scouting program, launched in August 2004, was set to debut in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday, March 19, 2005. Everything was clickingexcept the weather.
Seventy Soccer Cub Scouts had been registered in the new Pack 635. Indoor soccer courts were set up in two community centers, one of which was the site of the pack's chartered organization, Boys and Girls Home and Family Services Inc. Local sponsors, notably Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., had helped with funding.
Coaches and referees were ready to go. Cub Scouts and Scouters all had their sharp yellow-and-black Soccer and Scouting uniforms, and each boy had a new soccer ball.
But Friday saw snow flurries. By Saturday morning the snow had stopped, but the temperature was 20 degrees, with a wind chill of 8. Even though the event would be indoors, organizers wondered how many boys and families would brave the elements and show up for Day 1 of Soccer and Scouting.
Senior district executive Scott Seibert, the Mid-America Council's Soccer and Scouting coordinator, might have had trouble sleeping Friday night, but he soon had reason to smile.
Not only did 70 Soccer Cub Scouts turn out Saturday morning to have fun, learn about Cub Scouting, and play soccer, but their parents and siblings also came along to support them.
Better still, 23 more boys who wanted to join Pack 635 showed up that morningin an area of Sioux City where a traditional Cub Scout pack had failed only a year earlier. In all, nearly 200 persons attended the first day's activities.
Backing from the community
The successful launch of Pack 635 was the product of a coordinated effort by Hispanic community leaders, Tyson Fresh Meats, churches, schools, additional supporters who provided funding, and staff from the Omaha-based Mid-America Council's Sioux City satellite office.
Norma DeLao, program director for the New Iowan Center, which assists immigrants new to Sioux City, helped publicize the Soccer Cub Scout pack to the Hispanic-American/Latino community. She and Scott Seibert appeared on a local Spanish-language TV show and also got a story and photo in Sioux City's Hispanos Unidos newspaper.
DeLao is an enthusiastic supporter of Cub Scouting. She had two sons go through the traditional Cub Scouting program and has served as a Cubmaster.
"We're very excited that Soccer and Scouting has come to Sioux City," said DeLao. "The largest-growing population in Siouxland is Latino children, and we need a special way to attract them to Cub Scouting."
A 'big step forward for Scouting'
Pack 635 committee chairman Julio Rodriguez is the community outreach worker at Sioux City's Boys and Girls Home, a community services center. He had arranged for his center's gym and adjacent stage to serve as the indoor soccer facility for Pack 635's first- and second-grade Soccer Cub Scouts.
The Boys and Girls Home also served as the sign-up location where Seibert registered Soccer Cub Scouts.
Rodriguez, a Scout while growing up in Tucson, Ariz., and a den leader when his now-adult son was a Cub Scout, said he had heard nothing but favorable comments about Soccer and Scouting from neighborhood parents. "It's something they are happy about for their children."
The new Soccer Cub Scout pack filled a need in the Boys and Girls Home neighborhood, said Rodriguez, giving more boys a chance to learn about and get involved in Scouting, "which is a very positive thing for the boys," with Soccer and Scouting "a very innovative, big step forward for Scouting."
'A winning combination'
Head coach for Soccer Cub Scout Pack 635 is Juan Zamudio, a Tyson Fresh Meats supervisor who has played or coached soccer for nearly 20 years. "I like to work with kids; they're great," he said.
Juan's wife, Maria, a soccer player and also a Tyson employee, coaches one of the teams in the pack.
The Zamudios' work with Pack 635 reflects two corporate philosophies of their employer: help promote activities that lend moral support to Tyson team members and their familiesespecially childrenand help support the local community.
"Scouting helps start the foundation for the young children to learn discipline and good ethics in life," said Eugene D. Leman, senior group vice president at Tyson Fresh Meats and a member of the Mid-America Council Board of Trustees. "Then you complement that with the children's desire to play soccer, and it's just a winning combination."
Juan and Maria Zamudio's fourth-grade Webelos Scout son, Yoni, is an enthusiastic Soccer Cub Scout.
"Soccer and Scouting is great," said Yoni late in Pack 635's spring season. "I get to play soccer with my friends and learn neat things in Cub Scouts. It is also neat because my dad is the head coach. I am looking forward to the tournament and graduation ceremony, because I will earn my Bobcat badge and get a soccer medal."
A program with a 'natural fit'
Mid-America's council commissioner Larry V. Pearson shares Yoni Zamudio's positive view of Soccer and Scouting.
"Our objective is to present a quality Scouting program to as many youth in our council as we can," said Pearson. "We have a significant Hispanic population, and over the years we have worked with some success to get those boys into the traditional Scouting program. With Soccer and Scouting, however, we can offer the values and character-building of Scouting in a program that has special appeal to Hispanic youth."
Pearson explained that Soccer and Scouting has given his council the opportunity to reach out to a segment of the population that often hasn't understood the benefits of Scouting. "In the Soccer and Scouting program, we have the ability to bring Hispanic youth into a Cub Scouting program that starts out with a heavy emphasis on soccer and with what some may perceive as a lighter emphasis on what we are used to in Cub Scouting.
"But as the program is successful," he continued, "I think we will see both a continuing focus on the soccer portion along with a growth in the Scouting portion, which represents a true family-value type of experience.
"I believe that Hispanic family values and culture will fit in very nicely with Scouting once parents begin to understand what the program is all about," said Pearson. "Soccer and Scouting just seems like a natural fit."
Kathy Vilim DaGroomes is associate editor of Scouting magazine.
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