Police Athletic League's soccer program in Oklahoma City Public Schools getting results
Before Energy FC meets Colorado Springs on Saturday night, the Police Athletic League will hold its girls' and boys' soccer championship games at Taft Stadium Saturday afternoon.
“It doesn't get much cooler than to see the Energy players interact with our kids,” said Peter Evans, executive director of Oklahoma City's chapter of the Police Athletic League, a national nonprofit organization. “When our kids get to play on their field for the championship games, it's a big deal.”
The Police Athletic League's (PAL) sports programs in the Oklahoma City Public Schools, especially soccer, also are a big deal.
Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students in the Oklahoma City Public Schools compete for their school in the PAL soccer league. Almost 50 teams and 1,100 kids are involved.
A six-week season begins in mid-March culminated with two weeks of tournament play before Saturday's championship games at 3 and 4 p.m. Police officers, parents, teachers and others volunteer their time as PAL soccer coaches.
PAL sponsors other sports in the Oklahoma City elementary schools such as football, basketball, volleyball and cheer, but soccer has the most participation, Evans said.
“Soccer is a great connector for us,” Evans said. “Soccer is a sport a lot of kids can play, so our reach is immediately bigger than it is with other sports. We are playing 11 on 11, so more kids can play ...
“We can unite so many people — parents, teachers, kids — through this game. That is really neat to see.”
Building positive relationships between kids and police officers is a goal of the Police Athletic League. Involving a police officer in a young person's life through sports helps create trust, Evans said.
“And that trust we've built with the kids, we have seen it carry over to the parents and seen it carry over to the families, and hopefully it carries over to the community,” Evans said.
The other goal of the PAL sports programs is to keep kids on the straight and narrow path, so to speak. Students must stay out of trouble, make good grades and attend school to be able to play soccer or any of the other PAL sports.
“This program is putting them around a positive group of peers and role models,” Evans said. “We are using the sports to hopefully instill a bunch of life lessons.”
Energy FC is active in PAL. The organization has helped train the volunteer soccer coaches. Energy players attend some practices and games to meet the kids. And for the second straight year, Taft Stadium will be the site of PAL's soccer championship games.
Before the Energy FC match Saturday night, PAL volunteers also will be honored by Energy FC and PAL during a ceremony at 5 p.m. That will be followed by a meal catered by Cafe 7.
The volunteers also will be recognized at halftime during Energy FC's match against Colorado Springs.
Evans said the PAL programs are achieving the desired results in the schools with kids and in the surrounding community. In the cash-strapped Oklahoma City Public School District, the PAL programs are providing opportunities for kids to play sports.
“The longer we can keep kids excited about playing any sport, the higher their chances are of being successful,” Evans said.
ENERGY FC VS. COLORADO SPRINGS
•When: 7 p.m., Saturday
•Where: Taft Stadium
•Note: Energy FC’s U23 squad opens its regular season at home Sunday against Texas United SC. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the soccer complex on the campus of Oklahoma City University. Tickets are $5. Energy FC season seat members and Oklahoma City University students with a valid ID are admitted free.