SI Kids talked to Altidore about his involvement in the program and what it means for youth soccer in America.
Quickly explain what your partnership with gold Coast Sports Academy is and what you’re trying to do.
It’s pretty straightforward. We partner to bring soccer camps all over the United States right now, more focusing on metropolitan areas, the New York, New Jersey area. We may expand down to Florida. But giving kids a place to learn the game in a constructive environment, around some coaches that have played before and understand the game. It’s a good initiative, something that I thought would be fun, and I hope kids enjoy it.
Why did you choose the New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts areas?
Obviously being kind of from the area, I know how hard it is to kind of be seen and learn the game the right way, all due respect to those areas. I know it’s an area that loves soccer as well, which is the most important part, and I just felt like it would be a good place to start. I’m really excited to get going, and I’m excited that Gold Coast Sports was a team that was committed and shared a lot of the same ideas I did to start off.
Are there plans on expanding this camp to underprivileged areas?
A lot of the focus of my foundation has been, early on, on Haiti and helping the people there. I haven’t had the opportunity to cross over and do that in the States yet. And myself and Gold Coast Sports are gonna look for ways to kind of help those inner city kids and kids who have less opportunities to achieve and kind of give them more of a platform to learn the game, learn what it’s like to be part of a team and, through soccer, learn the values of life as well.
Soccer is very popular with kids. How are you getting them to stick with it full time?
You can’t force kids to play a sport. In the end, they’ll choose where their passion lies. So you hope the kids that pick up soccer have a passion for it, enjoy it, and have fun doing it. In the end, that’s what kids will decide. I don’t think you can choose or push them to choose one sport or the other.
How do you think your camps are going to help grow the status of soccer for kids and in the U.S. in general?
It’s one step at a time. You obviously want the game to grow by reaching down. But the biggest thing you can do is teaching them what it is to play the game, how important technically it is to be at the game, the discipline of the game, and just overall your awareness of learning how to play. I mean, the biggest thing we do nowadays is we overcoach kids. We have to let them play, let them figure it out, and let them express themselves. That’s what the game is all about.
I would say a lot of that is going to rely on the coaching team. It’s a camp; I’m not necessarily going around America scouting the top players. I’m not becoming a soccer club. My mission is more for the kids to come to a place where they can learn the game. There may be a time when someone can experience the game for the first time or maybe some more serious players who want to take it to the next level. That’s kind of more my focus.
How do your camps help kids get more active in the community?
Yeah, getting kids more involved is a huge thing. We want them to be more active, get outside and enjoy, be sociable, and learn a great game. I think a lot of kids nowadays are on their phones or on their PlayStations. You don’t want that to become what our young kids are today. You still want them to be young, energetic, free, and learning something new all the time.
If you had something like this as a kid, do you think things like this could be more beneficial for the community?
Absolutely. I think when professionals at the highest level, that have played at the highest level, put a team together, I think it’s very beneficial. I didn’t really have any of that to go on when I was young. On top of what all these kids are doing, hopefully this experience will give them something new and something they can build on and will make them that much hungrier to reach the highest level.
Visit the Gold Coast Sports Academy website to learn more about the camps and find one near you.
Photos: Mark J. Terrill/AP (action), Adam Weinstein (posing)