Our kids are getting a kick out of our partnership with Indy Eleven!


On Monday, the city’s professional soccer organization began
this year’s player appearances at Stephen
Foster School 67
and Christian
Park School 82
. It’s a relationship that benefits the kids and the athletes.


“It gives us a chance to introduce some of our players,
specifically players that we think will relate to the students we are
visiting,” said Guy-Jo Gordon, director of Community Relations for Indy Eleven.
“We want to help share their story about what it takes to be a professional
athlete and give them another person they can look up to.”Indy Eleven midfielder Don Smart takes picture with students from Christian Park School 82.


During the morning at Stephen Foster, Indy Eleven Forward Duke Lacroix took
center court with student moderator Kiarra, who asked him a series of questions
in front of the fifth-grade audience. One of the questions Kiarra asked Lacroix
was to tell them when he started playing soccer.


“My dad and older brother played soccer. My older brother is
my idol and everything he did I wanted to do, the same or better,” Lacroix
recalled. “So when he started playing soccer (he’s two years older than I am), that’s
when I started playing soccer. So as soon as I could walk, that’s when I
started playing.”


Lacroix was able to give the kids fascinating insights about
his practice regimen, his eating habits and how he balances academics, athletics
and his social life.


“Not only is it inspiring for them to meet professional
athletes and to learn how hard they’ve worked to accomplish their dreams, it
also creates a greater connection between them and their city,” said Lea Kaszas,
PE teacher and soccer coach at Stephen Foster. “Our school has a very high
Latino population who live and breathe soccer. It was amazing to be able to
engage them in something that they identify with and enjoy.”


The young crowd was captivated and followed up with
thoughtful questions about tips for staying positive during defeat and how to
recover from making mistakes.


After the Q&A portion, Indiana Futsal Director Justin Becht
took the mic and introduced the game of futsal. Futsal is a smaller version of
soccer played on hard surfaces with a heavier ball. It’s one of the fastest
growing sports in the world.


The assembly quickly moved from talking to foot action! Becht
grabbed a ball and challenged the kids to a game of 5-v-5 futsal. It was the adults
— including Indy Eleven representatives and Stephen Foster staff — against
students. The students were fiercely competitive and showed off their fancy
footwork. No one kept score and the audience enthusiastically cheered on both


During the afternoon at Christian Park, Indy Eleven
Midfielder Don Smart
was the man of the hour. He talked about learning to play the game, staying
positive and working with teammates during a discussion moderated by Christian
Park student Jacob.


“I like the intensity that kids bring,” said Smart. “I always
enjoy coming out talking to the kids and sharing my experience. To interact
with these kids is a joy for me.”


The third-, fourth- and fifth-graders also asked questions
about soccer rules and how to come back from an injury.


Then it was time for another game of futsal. And the crowd
roared with excitement, especially when their classmates scored.


“I felt really proud of myself,” said student Dominique, who
scored two goals. “I was nervous at first, but it was awesome.”


Fourth-grade teacher Priscilla Mercer echoed her
appreciation for the matchup.


“This is great because it gives our kids a chance to learn
the importance of teamwork; they don’t always have the chance to experience
that,” she said.


Kids at each school were delighted to learn they were being
given a free ticket to Indy Eleven’s next home game on May 21 at Michael A. Carroll
Stadium on IUPUI’s campus.


This school year alone, Indy Eleven has given 2,500 game
tickets to 20 schools. Still, there’s even more to this partnership. In May
2015, Indy Eleven teamed up with Indiana Soccer Foundation to open a futsal
court at Rhodius Park, which
is next to William Penn School 49. 
Discussions are also underway to bring futsal courts to other IPS
schools. The courts are part of the “Futsal for Indiana” program, which will
introduce the sport to underserved Hoosiers.


Next week, the Indy Eleven player appearance will move to William Penn to celebrate the
anniversary of the Rhodius Park court.


For more information on Indy Eleven or their schedule, click