New York City Football Club is committed to delivering safe and free soccer programming across the Five Boroughs through City in the Community.
Nayelly Rodriguez and Fredy Sorto are two Community Coaches that are giving back to their community through the power of soccer.
We spoke to Fredy and Nayelly to learn more about their journey with CITC and what motivates them to give back.
Tell us about yourself...
NAYELLY: I've always lived in the Bronx, growing up. I’ve been working with City in the Community for over four years now. I'm the type of person who can't sit still – I have to be active, so I have a lot hobbies. I’ve been playing soccer since middle school. I played in an all-boys’ team, and I was the only female – that's where I grew up to be a very strong type of offensive player. I would describe myself as a strong-headed, stubborn woman!
FREDY: I grew up in the Bronx for most of my life. My family is originally from El Salvador, both my parents are from El Salvador. They came here to give me a better opportunity because they saw coming to United States as an opening for me for a better life. That pushes me and motivates me. As of right now, I'm currently in my last semester as an undergraduate for my Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science. I've been a part of CITC for almost two years now.
How did you get involved with CITC?
NAYELLY: It was something brought into my school, University Prep. We did an opening of a soccer pitch and that's how we became more aware of the programs outside. I ended up joining CITC through SNL, which is the Saturday Night Lights program. I started during high school with our group of soccer players. We all played together, so I have a lot of connections within our group and one-by-one, we all started joining CITC.
FREDY: The first introduction was when they did the blue pitch opening. I didn't really take part in the initiatives until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I saw the work CITC were doing, and I found out about the Young Leader programs from my friend Darwin. It’s a program NYCFC puts together where Young Leaders come together to learn leadership skills, coaching skills, and those coaching skills obviously lead to life skills that can also be used. I wanted to try something new, and I really enjoyed it.
What did you enjoy about the Saturday Night Lights program?
NAYELLY: I was on the high school soccer team – I was captain for two years. SNL was another outlet for me to join, play and find other opportunities because the majority of the time, we didn't have a location to go to play on a regular basis. We would go to SNL and just have fun. It definitely became a home to us, as somewhere we could go play, meet new players, make new friends. It definitely was a safe space for us for sure.
FREDY: It definitely brings a lot of us together. Soccer and sports in general, and even music, brings people together – but to utilize a ball as a way to get to know each other, it's amazing. Most of my friends I've met because we played soccer together. It's like a little community to us, like a family basically. There's always a competitive spirit, but it’s all respect.
What do you love about soccer?
NAYELLY: Firstly, my coach during middle school. He reached out to me, and although I’d never played soccer before and I was very shy, he invited me to join and he gave me a lot of comfort. Secondly, the soccer team that I fell in love with became my home. They became family to me, and that kept me motivated.
FREDY: I love the adrenaline, the fun, the competition – I've always been a competitive person – and it's a team sport... It's not like you can do it all on your own. When you get that satisfying team goal, it's truly amazing, and it’s that team spirit – you have to encourage each other to stay strong, and push through in order to get a win.
What does your work with CITC entail?
NAYELLY: I’m an assistant coach. I started working with SNL first and now I’m working with schools. Right now, it’s soccer training but in spring, I’ll be working with another CITC colleague called Chelsea, who is doing a curriculum book I want to join onto, teaching kids the Healthy Hat-Trick: how to stay hydrated, what they should do, where they can go and that type of information.
FREDY: Every day is different. I started off as an assistant coach in Queens. From there, I started taking part in coaching events with NYCFC and Xylem. I also had a summer job with Soccer Bloc, which is another NYCFC and CITC community initiative, and I took part in the Community Cup, and the Consulate Cup – I was the referee for that event, but I also made sure everything was organized.
What do you love about your role?
NAYELLY: When you see these kids play and they're just active and happy, and there's so much excitement, it brings you so much comfort and joy. They finally found something that they love to do because they got that push of confidence and security to do so. I grew up not having that shelter – I didn't have a place to go play, to not be in the streets surrounded by unfortunately dangerous areas or stuff that happens: gunfights or even violence, gang influence.... But now there are so many other opportunities, and all that's needed is for people to know, and be able to express themselves.
FREDY: I love that I’m able to work doing something I love – I love sports, and I love soccer. That's also one of the biggest things: soccer has connected me to so many different people that I would never have expected. A lot of kids just like sport, but I feel like it's also amazing to share experiences with them because I always think to myself: ‘I used to be in their shoes.’ I remember being in these kind of programs and looking up to the coach.
Would you say CITC has changed your life for the better?
NAYELLY: I would say it honestly has changed me as a person. To be honest, I'm not very social, I can get very reserved, I like to be in my own corner. Mental health has been a big thing for me. I know CITC is trying to talk more about it, and CITC pushes me out of my comfort zone. This job actually allows me to socialize, develop my speaking skills, my communication skills, so many things.
Also, not only have I been able to have an impact on the kids, but they have an impact on me. We're not only their coaches, but we also become their role models, their personal outlets. They allow me to grow, they teach me what I can do to improve myself.
FREDY: There have been a lot of open gates and opportunities, being a part of CITC and NYCFC. It's definitely impacted me a lot. I remember me as a kid being put in these programs. People just think: ‘You’re just here to coach these kids’ but if you really like think about it, you're role models – they look up to you, and they really observe every move you do. I try to do the best I can and be a good role model for them because they look up to me.
What has been your best day working with CITC?
NAYELLY: I worked with this one school and we did robotic soccer! I’d never done robotics, I don't know how to do all that stuff. They didn't know either, so we're both learning together. It was a new bunch of kids – only about six or seven, a small class – but we had such a special bond. We were so silly sometimes, but we were so competitive! It was beautiful, and I loved it.
FREDY: The final day of the Community Cup. My team ended up getting second, losing in the finals, but it was okay because I felt like they learned from it. It was a hard loss, and it was hard seeing the kids lose, but that’s how it goes – you win some, you lose some. I really hope that helps them to develop as players – they don’t ever want to feel that again, but everybody has to go through some losses in order to get good. I remember seeing this little kid, he had so much passion and he was celebrating with everybody. It was amazing to experience, and it’s a memory they won’t forget.
How proud does it make you feel to be part of CITC, and what are your hopes for the future?
NAYELLY: One dream I have, and I'm on the path right now, is to get my coaching licenses. I definitely want to continue, learning more about how to interact with different age groups. It brings me a lot of comfort, knowing that I can work with an organization that not only provides us the opportunity to develop our skills in the work field, but allows students to find a place where they can interact and even be led to opportunities, such as the ones I have, or even scholarships. I hope my journey can inspire others.
FREDY: It’s truly amazing, being part of CITC – there’s no other feeling like giving back to the community. It’s awesome. My biggest achievement will be getting my Bachelor's Degree. I'll be the first person from my family to graduate from college, and I’m really proud. I want to be a software engineer, but for now, I’m just going to work on my skills, making sure I can be the best in what I do. I always tell the kids to chase their dreams; you’ve just got to put that hard work in.