New York City FC was delighted to announce the launch of its 2021 Bronx Blue primary kit. As part of the launch, we wanted to celebrate some of the people that make both the club and the city special. We caught up with City In The Community coach Oumou Toure to discuss her first thoughts on the new kit, her journey with NYCFC, and what makes coaching so rewarding.
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from?
My name is Oumou Toure, and I’m originally from Mali, but I moved to New York 20 years ago, and I have lived here ever since. I lived in Harlem for about 18 years, and then I moved to the Bronx for two years. This is my second year here [in the Bronx]. Actually, it is more like 19 years [in Harlem].
How did you get involved with City In The Community?
It started with an internship that I was doing with Coaches Across America. I went from coaching at a summer camp with Downtown United Soccer Club, and Paul Jeffries was the main guy over there. So he’s like, “I have this program. If you want to work there, it’ll be awesome.”
I started coaching with him in after-school programs when I didn’t have classes for college.
You mentioned college. Are you still in school or undertaking any work alongside your coaching?
I’m not in school anymore. I graduated a long time ago, but I’m definitely thinking about going back again to get my master's. I do a lot of community work with City In The Community [CITC], but with COVID-19, it has slowed down a bit. Apart from that, I also coach at Downtown United Soccer Club. I started both programs around the same time, which was way back in 2008 before City Soccer even became City Soccer.
You mentioned that it’s kind of been tough with COVID-19. How has your role changed over the past year?
With COVID and everything, we decided to move virtually. With the after-school program, we used to do virtual classes with them. We sold in-school classes, but the majority of them are online. With my other program, we also moved to Zoom because it is the easiest way to connect with each other right now and be able to teach the kids and talk with them.
Do you only work with the girls' program?
So with Saturday Night Lights, I’m only involved with the girls' side. There’s the boys' side, but I’m only involved with the girls' side, and with the rest of City Soccer, it is co-ed because it’s public school kids.
What’s the most rewarding part of coaching?
Honestly, it has to be seeing a kid that you coached from the age of five to the age of 13 they’re so involved in soccer, they love the game, and their skill level has improved. To see them go from like, “Oh yeah, I’m joining, I’m here just to you know, stay away from trouble and play soccer and learn something new.” To then, “Oh, you know what, I actually love this sport and I want to continue playing."
There is also the thought that one day you could see some of these kids become professional players. Sometimes it is not even about becoming a professional player, just that they learn life lessons from sportsmanship and being a good role model. So seeing that come out of many of these girls makes me proud as a coach. After graduating from high school, some of them volunteer to become assistant coaches with City Soccer. That makes me proud as a coach.
You also have kids that started in the program that are now in coaching roles; that evolution must be rewarding?
The fact that we are able to have retention within this program is amazing because it’s kids that have been through the program, they understand how stuff works in a way. To see them come out of the program and then get involved with it is a great thing to see.
Do you have any favorite memories from your time with the club?
My favorite game was against the Red Bulls, and it was at Yankee Stadium. I know for sure we won 3-2. It was just, the whole experience in the stadium was amazing because I am a supporter as well. I was in the supporters’ section, and the fact that you know, we were all so happy everybody was throwing beers up in the air, it was an awesome moment to see that.
Apart from that game, I think meeting the players in general, being able to see the first team train, I think was a great experience. You really get to see them in person. You’re like, “Oh, man, they’re all human." You know, they train just like everybody else.
After seeing one of my favorite players Frank Lampard; I was really happy about that. I’m not a Chelsea fan, but I follow that team in the English Premier League, and I followed him growing up. Being able to meet him was a great thing for me.
What are your thoughts on the kit, and how do you feel being involved in the launch?
I feel super excited to actually be involved in the kit launch because I’m like one of the first people to see how the kit looks. To be able to wear it and just represent the city that I love makes it even sweeter. I am involved in the kit launch of a team that I support and a team that does a lot for the community in New York. It makes me a proud New Yorker. It makes me a proud supporter of NYCFC.