Darren Laver, a former professional soccer player with Southampton in England, led the outdoor pop-up event. Laver and another coach, Chad Jerrell, set about getting the field ready with inflatable arenas to contain small matches. After dividing the children into teams relative to age groups, Laver blew the whistle, turned up the music and let the matches begin.
Nashville Soccer Club
Nashville Soccer Club is a Major League Soccer team based in Nashville. The club currently plays at Nissan Stadium but hopes to move to a larger stadium next year, Brandon Hill, director of community engagement, said.
Events like the Fort Campbell pop-up builds awareness of the soccer club, but Hill said the real purpose behind these events is to spread the love of soccer throughout Tennessee and to create a sense of community.
“Soccer is a global sport, and it’s probably the only sport we have that touches every corner of the world,” Hill said. “And Middle Tennessee is such a growing area, there’s so much new diversity and folks from all over the world want to come to this region. Events like these are a great way to leverage the sport and the club, and to bring the community together.”
The Impact Soccer program is the club’s way of reaching out to younger age groups, Hill said, with the goal of providing participants a space where they can freely play a game they love just for the fun of it.
“This program is really about going to where the kids are, where neighborhoods are and bringing the game to them,” he said.
Throughout the evening groups swapped in and out of the arenas to take turns playing games. There were no dribbling, or ball handling exercises or long stretches of practice and game strategy. Instead, each group had several minutes of timed play to do their best and above all, have fun with one another.
Hill said the club is grateful to have the opportunity to bring soccer to Fort Campbell to share their love of the game.
“It’s really important for us to come to Fort Campbell because veterans and Soldiers are also a big part of what Major League Soccer cares about, so it’s important for us to come and have some connection with the kids,” he said.
Parents sat in the bleachers or stood on the sidelines while their children took to the field. Several parents had multiple youngsters in the arenas and said events like these are a great opportunity to get playing time that they may not have access to either because of COVID-19 restrictions or because there aren’t as many teams for certain age groups.
Brittany Brinson, military spouse, had all three of her children – Laurel, 7, Rose, 9, and Frederick, 13 – at the pop-up event. She brought them because her son, Frederick, loves the club.
“It was Nashville, Frederick is a huge soccer club fan and so I figured we’d like to keep them in all the activities that we can,” Brinson said.
Frederick, who plays goalkeeper, said he hopes to play for bigger, more advanced teams in the future, and the pop-up event was a way to get in more practice time.
“It’s important to keep your skills up because if you don’t you can’t play the game correctly,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep in shape so I can play for more elite teams in the future.”
The turnout was larger than expected, said Justin Harris, assistant sports director, Youth Sports, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, although he wasn’t surprised at the number of youth who turned up to play.
The Nashville Soccer Club has grown in popularity since its inception and events can sometimes draw crowds in the hundreds, Harris said. The pop-up event was a great way to allow children who love soccer to have fun playing it.
“It’s fun because it shows the kids that it’s not just about playing the sport,” he said. “They can have fun with it by playing little games and it’s not strictly something you see on Saturdays when we play here.”