For Good: Youth soccer initiative aims to level playing field for low-income families

Youth sports participation has been on the rise among affluent families, but for the poorest households, the roster has reflected a downward trend, says research by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative. 

In an effort to even the score for future athletes, the Tampa Bay United Rowdies (TBU) is partnering with local real estate company Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group (BHHS Florida Properties Group) to launch Play It Forward, a philanthropic outreach campaign.

The Play It Forward campaign aims to reach parents of children who wish to play soccer but struggle with the high cost of competitive sports. 

“This partnership is a game-changer and unlike anything that currently exists in Tampa Bay youth soccer, says Anthony Latronica,” TBU Rowdies Sporting Director.
“Through our current financial assistance program, we help almost a hundred players every year with their registration fees, but there is still a gap in what our families can afford. The success of Play It Forward means we can give back to the core of our organization and help more kids play the sport they love.” 

According to Latronica, costs per players vary depending on their team and league, but the Play it Forward program will benefit boys and girls in from the under-5 group all the way to the under-19 age groups. 

“While TBU gives out financial assistance every year for registration fees, there are other fees like uniform or travel expenses that can be hard on a family,” he adds. “This program addresses and assists families throughout the season.”

Also a member of the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), a league that enhances the development of the female and male soccer athletes, TBU has four soccer campuses throughout Tampa Bay (Waters Avenue, Ed Radice, Palm Harbor, and Monroe in South Tampa). 

Latronica coached the USA U-17 Men’s National Team and was the head coach for the USA U-19 Paralympic National Team before heading up the TBU.

“Having coached at the highest youth international level it is very clear to me what is needed at the grassroots level,” Latronica emphasizes. “We have to knock down all barriers, financial or otherwise, so the best athletes are choosing soccer here in Tampa Bay. I am hoping this initiative will bring the community together and we can control the narrative of youth soccer and give the game back to the players. “

To participate in the Play It forward Campaign, contact BHHS Florida Properties Group at 813-800-4TBU. There is no extra fee. For more information, visit the Tampa Bay United Rowdies website.

Read more articles by Julie Garisto.

A graduate of Largo High, USF, and the University of Tampa's Creative Writing MFA program, Julie Garisto grew up in Clearwater and now has a home in the Ocala National Forest. Between writing assignments, she's teaching English courses at Saint Leo University and other colleges. Julie has written arts features in Creative Pinellas' online magazine ArtsCoast Journal, Creative Loafing, Florida travel pieces  (Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Jacksonville), the Cade Museum, and features and reviews in the Tampa Bay Times. Her previous journalistic roles include arts and entertainment editor for Creative Loafing, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and copy editor for the Weekly Planet. Lately, she's been obsessed with exploring Florida's State Parks, small towns, and natural springs.