Coach Roberto Aguas Shares his Vision of Youth Soccer for All
First-generation immigrant, Roberto Aguas, founder and president of FC Copa Academy, a professional soccer organization, shares why he believes in the value of youth sports.
When Roberto Aguas was just seven years old, he immigrated with his family to the United States from Ecuador. Growing up, he and his brothers played soccer in his “soccer family.”
After he graduated from college, Aguas dove deep into the technology industry, helping set up over 30 offices for IBM in Latin America. Then in 2004, he decided he was ready for a change and followed his life-long passion--soccer. As Aguas says,
“I decided that I wanted to give back, and I wanted to create a different way of not only teaching the game of soccer but to use soccer as a way to educate players to become better people.”
He spent a year with his colleagues forming Futbol Club Copa Academy. The multicultural professional soccer organization believes in soccer for all children. They now have locations in New Jersey and New York and serve between 700 to 1000 kids, ranging from 5 to 19 years old.
Through his non-profit FC Copa Urban Academy, a division of the Academy, Aguas has helped children from low-income backgrounds who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to play the sport. Many of them are Latinos like himself, and some are immigrants.
Soccer is celebrated during National Youth Sports Week, July 20-24, which “showcases how youth sports organizations and members of Congress can collaborate to promote healthy lifestyles for children and their families through sports.” It is run by the National Council of Youth Sports, who like Aguas, seek to create an environment where all children have access to sports.
Aguas says, “There are so many areas that youth sports helps our youth community, starting with giving them a purpose. I think if done right, it brings a wealth of opportunity to create more healthy individuals.”
For him, soccer can be approached from a physical health and a mental health perspective. Aguas explains that games are two hours of constant movement and that players “start to learn the mental toughness required to overcome issues on an immediate basis,'' like letting in a goal.
Besides focusing on the health impact of sports, one of the organization’s goals is educating its players to get into college. Aguas says that the discipline of sports, the camaraderie and the problem-solving give them another way to heighten their resumes to get into college.
He now has former players attending schools like Brown, Princeton, and NYU. Since its start in 2004, FC Copa Academy has had over 360 alumni in 156 universities and 24 who have either played for the national team or turned pro.
Aguas also seeks to educate his students about their own diverse backgrounds, to be able to learn from each other and appreciate and value their differences. For him, as a Latino and an immigrant, he says,
“ I try to educate our student-athletes on the successes that many of us have had as immigrants because we have devoted ourselves to the level of work, focus, discipline, and accountability required to be successful. I want to inspire the next generation to understand that being part of the Latino community does not in any way put you behind. It gives you an opportunity to have an amazing history to draw from.”