Local ABK Futsal players received word early last week they would have the opportunity to represent the United States in the international futsal tournament held in San Jose, Costa Rica July 23-30. 

As part of the selection process, players took part in the fourth annual U.S. Youth Futsal National I.D. Trials in Overland Park, Kansas.

Players who made teams traveling to Costa Rica are Chessie Mac Anaspie, Braeleigh McCoy, Allie Mairn, Taylor Rank, Jonathan Stout and Megan Clayton.

“I am incredibly proud of all these players,” said ABK Director Jose Fabian Rodriguez.  “Each one of them went through a rigorous assessment during the National ID camp and were selected as the best of the best by the US coaching staff.  We are looking forward to seeing them play against international teams this coming week. ”

ABK was originally founded to provide young athletes of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to compete at the highest level of futsal possible by educating them on futsal and life values. These values include leadership, teamwork, work ethic, respect and honesty.

Today ABK is ranked as one of the top futsal academies in the United States and regularly fields teams that capture national titles.

Futsal is the only form of indoor soccer recognized by FIFA.  It is a very fast-paced game played with a smaller, heavier ball on a basketball-sized court, with four players and a keeper.  

United States Youth Futsal is the largest U.S. Soccer affiliated futsal organization in the United States. Launched in 2004, U.S. Youth Futsal oversees more than 100 local leagues from Seattle to Florida to San Diego to New Hampshire. U.S. Youth Futsal annually hosts 8 Regional Championships and 1 National Championship.

The U.S. Youth Futsal I.D. program includes 9 Regional I.D. Camps and 1 National I.D. Camp, from which youth national teams are selected. It is led by U.S. Youth Futsal Technical Director (and USMNFT Head Coach) Keith Tozer.

Michigan Futbol Academy aspires to create consistent opportunities such as this for players in both futsal and soccer. Best of luck to all players competing this week!  

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After every game and practice in the month of May, coach Eric picks out a specific player who displayed exceptional grit. “In the huddle at the end of our second game at the Cherry Capital Cup, the players told me who the grit player of the game was before I even mentioned it. The unanimous decision was Noah McGraw, our central defender.”

The 06 Fever boys were flying that second game of the tournament, displaying grit in a way they never had before.

They ended up losing 4-2 to a very talented opponent, however that loss ended up being Noah’s favorite game. “We went 2-1 in the tournament, but my favorite game was the one we lost because I like how it challenged me.”

During their last game Sunday morning an opposing team’s parents commented from the sideline, “Whoever that Noah kid is, man he never stops moving.” Various River City parents added, “He is a brick house, it was like watching a new kid out there. His speed and skills have come a long way. He definitely deserved the grit award of the tournament.”

“His drastic improvement is a direct result of him continuing to give his best.” explained Coach Eric. “It’s a cliche saying, however not every player lives it out. Noah has. And it’s helped take our team to a new level and everyone on the field has noticed.”

For his exceptional example of grit, especially amidst challenges, Noah has been chosen for the #BeyondTheField #BallinCharacter award! Thanks for being a great example Noah, we can learn a lot from athletes such as yourself!

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Earlier this Spring, Coach Derek brought a #09Crenzy (a combination of players from 09 Craze and Frenzy teams) team to compete in a tournament.  Through a surprisingly successful series of games, the team advanced to the finals on Sunday.  The game was very even for the entire first half, until a few misjudged calls from the referee left the girls trailing 3-0 early in the second half. The players were quickly confused and discouraged by the referees decisions, and were never quite able to get back in the game.

Before they went to receive their 2nd place medals, coach Derek had an important chat with them. “We can’t control the ref’s calls, we can only control how we respond. You can be upset. You can let it ruin your experience this weekend. Or you can choose to be proud of how well you played.”

Is that hard to do? Yes. Does it mean they won? No. Coach Derek made sure to talk to the refs to ensure next time they make the correct call. After all, refs are human and make mistakes too.

The girls decided to choose to look at the weekend as an overall success, not a demoralizing defeat, even when decisions that were outside of their control went against them. For that, they receive the “Ballin Character” award for April for living out self-control.

This May, we’re introducing Grit as a new core value, one of the couple that have been added to our 10 #BeyondTheField Core Values. These new core values will be revealed at our Open House on June 13 from 6-8pm at MSA Fieldhouse.

Click here to read an exceptional example of grit and how we can play a part of cultivating gritty players. The strong will to compete and to give it your best is contagious when one sees it in action. Many of us in competitive sports can think of that one teammate who consistently gave it their best. Not only in games but also in practice.

What if a whole team had the grit of Messi to spit out his tooth and keep playing, of Jordan to compete in the playoffs with the flu and not be able to walk off the court. The development, the fun, and the lessons learned would be amazing.

The hunger and drive to always give it your best applies not only applies to sports, but to school, work, relationships, or anything else in life. Never settle for anything but your best. On the tired days, on the hard days, on the rainy days, make the choice to always give it your best and continue moving forward. #GritHungry

ABK Announcement

One of the nation’s premier youth training and competition organizations, Michigan Sports Academies (MSA), is proud to announce the addition of ABK Futsal Academy, the top youth futsal academy in the nation! ABK Futsal Academy will join Michigan Futbol Academy, alongside River City FC. This addition will provide the optimal environment for athletes to develop throughout the entire year in both soccer and futsal.

History:

ABK Futsal Academy is heading into it’s 6th year of providing quality Futsal products for boys and girls ages 3-19. Fabian Rodriguez is the founder and director of coaching of ABK and started the club in 2012. Fabian was first introduced to Futsal in 1996 by a Brazilian exchange student. This led into an interest in the sport and the many similarities he saw in the street soccer game he grew up playing. In 2001, he started using the game of futsal as a teaching tool to further develop soccer players. In 2008, Fabian started Ole SC and implemented an internal summer and winter futsal program to compliment his youth soccer training. The program continued to develop and became the initiation of the futsal movement that we see today which has led to the creation of futsal leagues, camps, training, tournaments and eventually the ABK Futsal Academy.

Accomplishments:

  • 15 U.S. Youth Futsal Regional Titles (USYF)
  • 10 U.S. Futsal Regional Titles (USFF)
  • 3 World Futsal Championships Titles (USA FUTSAL)
  • 5 U.S. Youth Futsal National Championship Titles (USYF)
  • 2 U.S. Adult Futsal National Championship Titles (USAF)
  • 3 ABK Men’s players selected to the U.S. Men’s National Futsal Team (US SOCCER)
  • 5 ABK Men’s players selected from the Professional Futsal League combines (PFL)

ABK’s Vision:

To bring futsal to the forefront of youth American sports and produce players that can compete at the highest levels of the game.

ABK’s Mission:

To provide young athletes of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to compete at the highest level of futsal possible by educating them both on and off the court. These players will be able to enhance their abilities to be successful in a game that relies on proper technique and dynamic decisions.

Read more through the news release/FAQ’s document.


“If you’re looking to choose a futsal program look no further than ABK. I have worked closely with their staff and they have one of the best futsal programs in the United States. They know how to build high level players, along with building life skills and character. I now have players on the U.S. National Team who grew up in their program, I couldn’t recommend them more highly!”

– Keith Tozer

U.S. Men’s National Futsal Head Coach

Commissioner of the Professional Futsal League

Back in February, our #07Craze girls participated in a competitive futsal tournament. The team played well over the weekend, winning all of their games convincingly. Since the start of the tournament, the girls couldn’t stop talking about wanting to win one of the elegant trophies on display.

After their championship win, the girls giddily approached the trophy table. They waited their turn as an older boys team snapped pictures with their new trophy. When it came to be the girls’ turn, they were surprised to hear the words, “Congratulations girls, here are your….participation medals!” Tears flowed immediately. Suddenly their sense of accomplishment became sheer discouragement.

Coach Derek’s heart sunk as he shared his players’ disappointment. He called his little soldiers in to gather around him, tears and all. As the team they beat in the finals received their participation awards, he took a moment to go #BeyondTheField: “Girls, I’m so sorry that you didn’t get the trophy that you wanted. In my mind, you’ve earned it. But you don’t need a trophy to define you.”

John Wooden, one of the most successful coaches of all time, explains, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Trophies don’t define us. Our effort of becoming our best does. Here at River City FC, part of our mission is to develop Capability in our players: growing them to become who they are fully capable of.

So….if we are not defined by our accomplishments, what defines you?

 

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Each year, soccer becomes more accessible to the youth of Grand Rapids thanks to the efforts of a number of committed families and local businesses going #BeyondTheField.  Dick’s Sporting Goods is one such business.  It is due to their generosity that the boys in the picture above were outfitted with Nike indoors for their league at MSA Woodland this winter. 

Many of these young and talented players were identified through the outreach program provided by the River City Futbol Club.  The outreach program began three years ago as a free soccer camp at Martin Luther King Park.  Since that time,  the program has expanded tremendously to a number of parks throughout Grand Rapids and serving a number of disadvantaged youth in the community who would not have access to soccer otherwise.

Some of the young men currently participating on our refugee soccer teams came to the area in the last 3-5 years fleeing the war and political turmoil of their native Rwanda.  As a result of the RCFC outreach program, currently 34 high school refugees (some pictured below) are participating in a one of a kind soccer opportunity.  They are playing club soccer this winter and spring and have been offered an opportunity to showcase their talents potentially leading to a chance to play in college.

 

 

We’ve now formed two different teams, a younger and an older age group team. Coach Eric Hollis and Coach Jeff Merritt  have been transporting the players in the 15 passenger van (pictured below) or in their own personal vehicle to get the boys to and from practice and games.  Occasionally the players are able to use public transportation thanks to the Rapid who has generously provided bus passes for the boys. 

Eric Brown, one of the young refugee players stated that,  “Almost all of us know each other from the same camp in Rwanda. Our only access to soccer in the United States has been playing for fun in parks or the streets as the weather has permitted but for the past couple of months, we’ve been allowed to train and play games at MSA Woodland once a week and it has been awesome.”

Coach Jeff Merritt is the practice and game coach of the older boys,  “It’s been an adjustment for these boys to play organized soccer but it has been an awesome experience to see them grow as players and as a team. The boys are skilled, they love the game, and with a little bit of organization they are playing well against premier level teams in the area. ”  

Through coaching these boys, we’ve found three different ways that YOU can help our work with our refugee friends:

  1. We are in need of donations of black soccer socks. Black ones are preferred, however we’ll take any!  If you would like to donate socks please drop them off at the MSA Woodland front desk anytime in the next 2 weeks.

  2. We are also in need of adult sized shin guards. Please drop them off at the front desk at MSA Woodland anytime in the next 2 weeks!

  3. Most importantly, we are in need of volunteers who can assist us with collecting documentation for their international clearance to play in sanctioned outdoor leagues!   If you are interested helping in this way, please email eric@rivercityfc.org!

Thanks for making the game more accessible to ALL of the youth in Grand Rapids!

After a fustal training last week, coach Cam huddled up with a group of 6-7 year olds. “What’s the core value of the month?” “Responsibility!” They resounded. Cam then asked how they live it out. A bold six year old replied loudly, “I flush the toilet every time because it makes my parents proud.”

So if we can “flush” out the meaning of his funny comment, he’s already understanding that his everyday decisions affect others in a positive or negative. Because his parents might think he’s a “turd” if he didn’t right?! 😉

All joking aside, in January RCFC players learned responsibility is taking ownership and being accountable for your actions. Additionally, leaders can be responsible for others and help the team by holding one another to a standard of excellent choices. 

The core value for February is respect. Our slogan is that respect is given, not earned. We respect everyone and we respect ourselves. From a sport perspective, we also respect our opponent. Here’s an amazing example of respect from a recent speech by tennis star Roger Federer (pictured below).

RCFC is well-known for how our parents, players, and coaches respect others in GVSA. We’ve consistently ranked at the top of the league in how we live out respect. However, there’s always room for improvement. Let’s continue to think how we can respect others more and create a culture where respect is given unconditionally, not earned.

MSA Announcement

Parents of River City FC,

It is with great pleasure that I get to share this exciting news with you today…

The #RascalNation has just joined the Michigan Sports Academies (MSA) family, with the pursuit of providing the best possible sports experience for the kids in our city, especially your children.

MSA has specialized in volleyball and basketball programming, through their entities of Michigan Volleyball Academy (MVA) and Michigan Basketball Academy (MBA).  They are now in the lacrosse market with their Michigan Lacrosse Academy (MLXA) as well.  In the past 6 months, MSA has purchased 3 of the largest, nicest soccer facilities in West Michigan: the Fieldhouse, Woodland, and Sports Spot.  This is where we come in.

Effective immediately, River City FC will now be the epicenter for all soccer programming that is to take place through the MSA organization.  We will operate under the new entity, “Michigan Futbol Academy (MFA)”.  By no means does this mean that we are losing our name, and our culture.  These things will stay intact.

We are eager to bring the whole of who we are into what MSA has built.  From Character to Capability to Community, our mission will remain the same.  From Little Rascals to Rascals to Revolution, our programs will still kick butt.  Our amazing staff will continue to be committed to learning and growing with your athletes, on and off the field.

How, then, will this change?  Joining the MSA family will allow us to have an even greater impact on the young athletes in this city.  Our mission and vision will reach more kids.  Our programs will flourish in their new facilities.  We are eager to offer consistent programming at our new fields.  For those of you who have been with us for the past few seasons, welcome home.  We did it!

So, my dear friends, I ask that you reign in the New Year with River City FC as we embark upon the next chapter in our story..  We understand that there are many questions that come to mind during this transition.  We hope that we have addressed them in our FAQ’s document.

Come on over to MSA Woodland tonight (Jan 3) to join us in our new home!  We’ll be there from 4:30-9 PM.  Looking forward to celebrating with you!

Blessings,

The Big Rascal

Coach, thank you so much,” said Francois as he extended his hand for a firm handshake from coach Derek. “He does it every time I pick him up and drop him off for futsal,” said Derek. Francois is a 12 year old refugee from Rwanda who expresses gratitude at every opportunity. For his consistent gratitude, Francois receives the #BallinCharacter award for the month of November.

As an MSA employee was closing up the facility after practice, he asked if any of our coaches wanted some of the leftover popcorn or hot dogs. I suggested that the food should go to the seven refugees that Derek drives to and from practice. Francois took notice of my statement and walked over, looked me in the eye, and shook my hand as he explained how thankful he was for everything we do for him.

You can literally feel his genuine gratitude when he thanks you. His intentionality, eyes, words, and actions show that he really means it. When someone consistently goes out of their way genuinely thank you, it makes you appreciate them and want to serve them even more. Thank you Francois for reminding us to consistently live grateful lives and to not take anything for granted.

We hope November gave players tangible ways to live out gratitude. To take note of what they have, rather than what they don’t.

 

This December, we’ll be teaching the core value of love. To love yourself (check out this awesome video), others, and the game of soccer. While love is often viewed as kind words and actions, It can also be doing what’s hard, not fun, or sacrificial. All of our core values are rooted in love. It’s a massive word and is easily thrown around, but we hope to teach players ways to practically live it out in December.

 

 

passing it on

The past couple of weeks at practice, I’ve been asking groups of players how they show gratitude. It starts with the question, “What are you thankful for?” Once they give me an answer, I then ask them how they express/show gratitude. I ask, because thankfulness leads us to think and ponder, while gratitude is a state of being. Gratitude means living it. To be doers, not just sayers, is the goal of our core values.

When I brought in a group of 10 year old boys and asked what they’re thankful for, one boy quickly shouted, “turkey!” I asked him how he shows gratitude and some other boys chimed in with, “eat all of it in your tummy, yummmm” or “put gravy on it!” Although I will do both of those this Thanksgiving, I wanted them to think a bit more.

Then I heard a quiet and hesitant answer from the side of the group, “Umm, you could give a turkey to someone else, too.” The comment surprised me but this is exactly where I wanted them to go.

In that short, five second moment those 10 year olds sniffed out the difference between thankfulness and gratitude. Thankfulness is saying thank you for the turkey (or even putting turkey on it let’s be real), while gratitude is the action that 10 year old takes when he gives a turkey to someone else this Thanksgiving. Therefore, gratitude for the love of a friend, a god you may believe in, a turkey, or anything else, requires passing it on.

So this Thanksgiving, let’s be prone to “pass it on” when it comes to turkey, love, and relationships so others can have something to be grateful for, too.

And if you’re interested in giving a turkey to someone else, like my 10 year old blonde friend, here’s a link to Mel Trotter Ministries, they’re short of their turkey goal so far and YOU can “pass it on.”

Stories inspire us. If you witness a story worth telling, e-mail eric@rivercityfc.org.

 

ballin integrity

Sometimes crazy stuff happens in games. A couple of weeks ago, the ’09 Fever faced a Midwest United team who had no substitutes. During the game, one of the Midwest players became ill and had to leave the game.

Without hesitation, a couple of players went up to coach Alex and suggested that they take a player off to make it an even game. They were all volunteering to go off. For the remainder of the game, the boys wanted to continue to play down a man. There was no hesitation of integrity for these ’09 Fever boys, which is why they receive the “Ballin Character” Award (it’s being held underneath Luke’s legs in the middle of the picture.)

These boys cared more about fair play than an easy win. It would’ve been easy and justified for them to play with an extra man, but they did the right thing regardless. Thanks for being examples of character for all of us ’09 Fever!

For the month of November, our core value is gratitude. It’s easy to say we’re thankful, but gratitude requires consistent action so we can know that in the end, we’re blessed with a lot more than we think.

If you witness any #BeyondTheField stories worth telling, e-mail them to eric@rivercityfc.org.

 

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If we were “gradying” him on “integrady”, he’d get an A+. Grady has been playing on Coach Matt’s ’07 Drive team this season and found it difficult to cap and box his soccer bill during skill exercises in practice.

Despite the hardship, Grady has been determined to improve his technical skills. “The past three practices, I’ve caught him finishing every single rep even after everyone else finishes and we’ve moved on. He does it without complaining when no one is watching and puts in the hard work. I love it,” said coach Matt.

Players like Grady encourage us that if you continue to do the right thing, whether someone’s watching or not, you’ll be a winner no matter what you do in life.  Thanks for living out our core value of October Grady!

If you’ve witnessed a story worth telling, e-mail eric@rivercityfc.org.

 

 

 

This Fall season marks the launch of our Player Coach Mentorship Program. As a relationship based club, our long-term goal is for some players and Player Coaches to aspire to become coaches and serve their community through soccer in years to come. We’re excited that the Player Coach Program can start that process.

Player coach responsibilities are to assist with practice for Little Rascals and Grassroots Academy sessions. The program allows growth for player coaches, providing role models for the players, and for everyone in the program growing in relationship.

Player coaches know what it’s like to be a beginner soccer player and can teach the basics well to our Grassroots and Little Rascals. Additionally, player coaches can look up to and learn from the RCFC coaching staff. We’re incredibly thankful for our player coaches giving their time and energy to the club. RCFC coaches appreciate the extra coaches engaging with the players.  

Get to know our 4 Player Coaches we highlighted who are helping out this Fall season (some coaches not highlighted):

Coach Cooper got involved in the program by coaches recognizing his awesome interactions with younger kids and saying that he’d make a great Little Rascals coach.

Coaching tip: Keep working and practicing on 1 thing until you get it right.

Favorite food: Buttered noodles 

Coach Ali was reccomended to coach through a friend. He loves kids and appreciates learning from RCFC coaches. 

Coaching advice: Try and be Ronaldo.  

Favorite food: Bologna

Coach Austin (also known as Tino) decided to help out because he had some extra time on his hands. 

Coaching tip: Don’t give up and don’t get distracted.

Favorite food: Mac and cheese

 

Coach Lana likes soccer and aspires to be a teacher so she figured she’d put the two together Best coaching tip: Stay loose and have fun. Favorite food: pasta 

If you know of anyone interested in the Player Coach Program, e-mail Rudy@rivercityfc.org

At the Kingdom Cup in Kalamazoo, the ’05 Rave lost the championship game 2-1. The team’s goalie Cooper Hutt got upset at the close loss and tears began to fill his eyes. Recognizing that, Xander Darling and some other teammates kept insisting to give the Cooper the trophy to hold for a team picture. “It was moving to see how Cooper’s teammates kept insisting on giving him the trophy so they could celebrate together,” said coach Jeff Merritt.  #Teamwork

This past Saturday, the Rave found themselves in a close match and the assistant referee approved of a goal they scored. As the referee was running back to midfield, numerous of the Rave offensive players went up to the referee and told him that it didn’t go in. They continued to insist that the referee should call their goal off. While the referee didn’t listen to them because he wanted to support and stand by his assistant referee, the Rave players decided to do the right thing in light of a close, competitive game.  A team effort of #Integrity.

Great work ’05 Rave! You not only look good (see below) but we’re proud of your character despite a loss or a close game.

If you see a good #BeyondTheField story worth telling, e-mail Eric@rivercityfc.org. We can all learn from our players in these moments of character.

 

Introducing our #BallinCharacter award! Every month, the golden mini ball is given to “ballin” (really really good) examples of living out the monthly core value.

This month’s #BallinCharacter award goes to the #09Craze by living out teamwork, our core value for September. Read a snippit of coach Laura’s e-mail to her parents after a tournament a couple of weekends ago.

“This weekend, I hope you were able to see the way your daughters rose to the challenges. It wasn’t peachy all of the time, but that’s why I’m so impressed with these very young girls. They summoned motivation and even cheeriness in each game, when many older, more mature girls might have been deflated and grumpy. They persevered through some tough challenges of faster, older, teams who were more physical. 

Here are a couple of the many core values I saw your daughters demonstrate:

1.  Before the 3rd game the girls were asking why we were playing older teams. I explained that the tournament didn’t offer a U8 division, and that we had the choice to either play older girls (and likely face tough losses) or not go to the tournament. I asked them which one they would have preferred and with no hesitation, I heard yells of “Tournament!” and then Carys chimed in to say, “Playing in the tournament is good because it helps us to get better”  #courage

2. Bella wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of subbing into the 3rd game, but I told her that her teammates on the field needed a break and that we needed a boost in defense. I turned to her teammates on the bench (Megan and Madison) and they said “Bella, you’re really strong on defense and at goalie. You’re a GREAT player – we need you.” Hearing it from them, she was ready to sub after about 30 more seconds. #teamwork #love #courage

So I hope you saw some moments like this with your girls and feel as proud as I do. We certainly have skills to work on, but it is so heartening to see these girls growing together and displaying attitudes that will help them not only in soccer seasons to come, but in their lives in general. You’ve raised some great daughters!”

Some parents had a couple of things to say about their daughters attitudes too:

“After the last game of the tournament, coach Laura told families that practice is cancelled/optional on Monday. The parents were excited but I think every girl gave a disappointed “awe” because they still had amazing attitudes after such a long weekend of soccer.”


We can learn a lot from players displaying core values. If you see a story worth telling, e-mail eric@rivercityfc.org. And yes, that is a ninja turtle shirt in case you were wondering.