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'We see this as a way to unite kids' | Twin Cities futsal league uses serve-to-play model to introduce kids to the sport

The organizations started a serve-to-play model, partnering with local community groups to have players provide one hour of community service each week.

ST PAUL, Minn. — For Mario Wimberly, the Chief Visionary Officer with TC SOL Futsal, giving back to the community where he grew up was a lifelong plan.

"Just wanted the kids to have access and opportunity," said Wimberly. "TC Sol was birthed just from myself and a friend, a way for our kids to have an opportunity to play to make the game more accessible."

Kyle Johnson with the Karen Football Association, had a similar plan.

"The Karen Football Association works within the Karen community, and we have a mission of using sports for gender equity," said Johnson. "The community loves the game and we really accentuate that, and we also want to highlight the young women and the men in the community who are pretty talented."

So both organizations decided to create a futsal community, teaching kids and teens, aged 8 to 18, about the sport in an inclusive environment that promotes giving back to the community.

"We have kids from St. Paul, we have kids from Prior Lake this year, we have kids from the north/south metro," said Wimberly. "I met Johnson, who was doing similar things on the other side of the river in St. Paul, we got together and thought we could serve more kids."

But not the pay-to-play model seen in most sports. They introduced a different method, by partnering with local community organizations to have players provide one hour of community service each week.

"We have this brand new model serve-to-play," said Johnson. "We donated swimsuits to the north Minneapolis community in need, we cleaned sewer drains."

Last year, around 160 participating athletes were able to provide over 720 hours of community service, planting more than 100 trees.

"We provide uniforms, mentor, coaching, we also provide a lunch because we know food insecurity is another challenge," said Wimberly.

With kids from all over the metro area participating, both say the serve-to-play model eliminates financial burdens often associated with playing sports, giving participating athletes a chance to be a part of community where they can see themselves represented in the sport.

"We see this as a way to unite kids with futsal and soccer, and unite the community," said Johnson.

The league will be held at Johnson High School on the eastside of St. Paul. The dates for the league are July 9, 16, 23, 30, and 31.

To learn more about Karen Football Association, visit the site here.

To learn more about TC Sol Futsal, visit the site here.

To learn more about Sol of the Cities, visit the site here.

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