"The heart behind our league is to provide opportunities for all kids to play - especially the ones that can't afford it."
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Good morning! It's time for a new interview, as that's what Thursday's are for! Today you'll get to read about Jubal McDaniel, and the work he does with refugee and impoverished kids and youth in the Pacific Northwest. Now, I know there is a stigma attached to faith based sports organization's, but what these guys are doing is actually quite unique, and really, really valuable. And if you think that this show AP is in some way 'non inclusive' or 'bigoted,' please read Soccer for Social Change: Ryan Adams of TC Jacks from last September. Check it out.
Tell readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with Northwest Football Ministries.
My name is Jubal McDaniel and I am the Founder and Director for NW Football Ministries. I also have a wife and three small children at home. I was born and raised in Austin, TX, but I moved to Washington state in 2009.
How did you come to be a fan of soccer?
I didn't grow up playing or watching much soccer. American football is king in Texas and so that became the familiar sport for me. I developed a love for the game after I attended my first Seattle Sounders match in 2011. Our church took a large group to the game and I was mind blown. It wasn't long after before I started picking up indoor soccer. I have now been a "soccer junkie" for close to 7 years now.
What's the 'origin story' behind Northwest Football Ministries?
I started NW Football Ministries back in 2014. I had a desire to combine my two major passions - my love for Jesus and my love for the game of soccer. I didn't have any experience leading a sports ministry, or even an organization for that matter. For that reason, we kept it really simple - we started consistently showing up at a local park and invited people to kick around with us. We would play in mud and rain with college students from Syria and Iraq. On dark winter nights, we would pull out a generator and some work lights that barely lit the field. Sometimes we had three people, and sometimes we had over 20. It was very grassroots and I loved it that way. Simple soccer. We are now approaching our fourth birthday and have broadened our programs to include a large number of summer camps, prison sports ministry, volunteer training, chaplaincy for professional players, a developing grassroots youth soccer league and we are even helping start some academies in other countries around the world. We are a recognized non-profit as of July, 2016.
There is a lot of, to put it nicely, 'mistrust,' when it comes to faith based soccer ministries in the United States. How are you trying to cultivate a different type of trustworthy, faith based soccer organization?
We avoid being "preachy" by being upfront what we are about. We don't want anyone to feel as if we have pulled a 'bait and switch' on them. Nothing is forced. Many of our volunteers are not Christians, and we love that. They see and understand that our heart is community impact and it really resonates with them. Another thing that makes us unique is that we are trying to change the culture surrounding the word "Christian". It completely changes the way that we communicate our vision, promote our programs and engage with the people we interact with. We aren't here to force Jesus on anyone. If we really look at Jesus for who He was, He didn't force himself on anyone. He said, "Here I am. This is what I'm about. Come, see and follow me...but the choice is yours." Then he walked away. NW Football Ministries takes the same approach. We are upfront about who we are/what we do, we show Christ's love through mercy and grace, and we welcome anyone that is interested in serving with us.
What does your current youth league structure look like? Are you running several teams, or just one team that plays in a local league?
Our league is very grassroots and will incorporate small sided games. The heart behind our league is to provide opportunities for all kids to play - especially the ones that can't afford it. We want to provide top level coaching at a next to nothing price. Why? Because we have all seen how the American soccer system has alienated some of the best talent, strictly because the family couldn't afford to pay. Not only that, but we have a large influx of refugees coming into our state and we want to welcome them with open arms. This league will not only focus on technical development, but will emphasize principles like leadership, discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship and integrity. We realize that we aren't just working with soccer players. We are working with young men and women, who are the next generation of leaders and coaches. Yes, we use the Bible as our teaching guide, because we believe it has some solid things to say regarding our character and the way we live in relation to other people. Its all about changing lives and giving kids a chance to pursue their dreams.
What's it like being able to work with refugee kids as part of your organization? It must be really cool to be able to help these kids settle in to a new home and play soccer.
It is really cool. This is a huge growth area for us as well. It takes a lot of time to build trust and establish communication. Many of the families (here in Seattle) are overseen by the legal organizations that are providing aide. Getting access to the families has been a huge challenge. However, it is really cool to see the joy on their faces, because you know they feel like they belong. It is one of the greatest feelings. Period.
When you say small sided games, how many players are typically on the field for each team?
The number of players per team varies based on their age range. The most common lineups are 4v4, 7v7 and 9v9.
How did reaching out to prisons come about? I'm sure there's a good story behind that.
You are correct. There are a number of other sports ministries that will take teams into prisons to play with the detainees. It wasn't really on our radar, until a volunteer reached out to us via email. He had just moved to Seattle from California and had a desire to get involved with prison sports ministry. Together, we approached the county juvenile detention center about the idea. They accepted our proposal and allowed us to have a one month trial period. Every Friday night, John and I would go play futsal with a group of young men living at the detention center. The kids loved it and the staff loved us. December will mark the one year anniversary of the program. This is one program where we don't talk about religion at all. There are some short instances where our team might talk about choices, attitude, or sportsmanship, but the focus is just hanging out with the kids.
Does your organization have anything like a 'boundary' in terms of how much of an area you cover, or are you trying to cover all of the Northwest?
Great question! We do not have a physical boundary. When I started NW Football Ministries, my vision was to encompass the entire Pacific Northwest. That is why our name is what it is. This vision also plays out in our values - for example, we like to support the local economy by buying from local/small businesses. Costs may go up, but we want to look, smell and taste like the Pacific Northwest. We currently have plans to do some camps in Boise next summer, and are trying to spark some things down in Portland also.
To satisfy my own curiosity, what do you, a North-westerner, define as the boundaries of the Northwest?
The Northwest to me (at a minimum) is WA, OR and ID.
Ultimately, do you hope to create a team, or a couple of teams, playing in more local leagues, or even something like the Evergreen Premier League?
Yes, that is definitely on our horizon. It is probably a few years out for us, because we want to have a solid youth development club/process before we begin trying to establish a new "thing". We do what we do, because of our love for local soccer. It would bring us great joy to be a future participant and contributor to it.
What are some of the current ways you work with and train kids on the field to help them feel more integrated and involved?
Great question. There are three points that we focus on within our teams: The most important piece is helping the player develop a love for the game. If they aren't enjoying playing, then nothing else matters. Second, we have to help them develop self confidence when they step out onto the field.Third, creating an atmosphere where relationships can establish and grow. Kids are good at that, if we give them the time and space to be themselves.
Walk me through a normal day of training and playing soccer with these kids. What does that look like?
A typical training session is divided into 4 different stages. 1. Warmup 2. Technical work/drill 3. Small sided game or scrimmage 4. Discussion/team building
Do you have any success stories about kids really latching on to this and growing and becoming something you hadn't expected?
Not yet. We see a lot of potential developing, but all of the kids are still fairly young and haven't reached that age level yet.
Let's do some short questions to wrap things up. What's your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
I am a die hard Sounders and Everton fan.
Favorite players. One past, one present.
I grew up following Brian McBride. A fantastic American talent, and a man who continues to give back to the game.
Presently...there are way too many favorites for me right now. I don't like the team, but I always enjoy watching Daley Blind of Manchester United. In my opinion, one of the most underrated defensive midfielders out there.
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to readers?
Sir Alex Ferguson's book, "Leading" is an excellent read. As a coach, it opened by eyes to a lot of things that I wasn't aware of prior. I will also listen to TalkSport radio every now and then.
If you could meet one person from soccer history, who would it be and why?
Johann Cruyff. For being one of the world's best, he is also an extremely simple player. I like to coach and play simple football. With the emergence of the FIFA generation, kids are all about the tricks, moves and showmanship of soccer. Too often, the mental side of the game gets left behind. Johann also had a different set of eyes for the game, and I resonate a lot with that. As a leader and a coach, my number one goal is to help each player further develop their love for the game. They come to practice, because they love the game. They train at home, because they love the game. However we engage with soccer, its because of our love for the game. I think that's a real treasure that needs to be rediscovered in American soccer.
Where can people find out more about you and Northwest Football Ministries online?
You can find us online at www.nwfootballministries.org. We are also on Twitter (@nwfm7), Facebook (nwfootballministries) or on Instagram (@nwfootballministries).
How would you respond to someone asking you why they should get off their couch, go outside, and support their local youth soccer organization, like Northwest Football Ministries?
NW Football Ministries is filling a gap - one that is continuing to grow ever larger in the United States. Refugees are pouring into our country, the wage gap grows every year, and the cost of living continues to rise as wages and jobs stay stagnant. More and more kids are being left out, forgotten or rejected. However, we can't stand idly by and allow it to happen. We want to make a difference, but we need your help. No experience necessary. All you need is a passion for the sport, a little bit of time and a desire to impact kids. Don't wait, because time never stops. Join us.
Jubal, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like to read these interviews before everyone else, and make sure you aren't missing anything, click here and sign up for the newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.