2021 Soccer Stars Camp, photos courtesy of Jonah Field
This passionate coach proves just how much a dad can do for his family and community.
Jonah Fields is a special education teacher and Boys Varsity Soccer Coach at Como Park High School. He started volunteering as a soccer coach at Northwest Como Rec Center in 2012. Since then, Jonah has also developed a program called Soccer Stars for youth ages 4-6 and 7-11 for boys and girls and a similar Basketball Stars program at North Dale Rec Center. During COVID, Jonah stepped up to lead the Indoor Futsal Program when the Rec Center was short on coaches. Good thing he has the ability to manage multiple teams at once!
You love working with young people and you love sports. What got you started as a volunteer for Parks and Rec?
I started volunteer coaching when my daughter Ava began playing soccer at the rec center. I coached soccer and basketball until she grew out of those programs. Darcy Rivers on the rec center staff saw how much I loved it and said: “hey what about a summer youth program?” It took off by word of mouth and now it’s full every summer.
And that led to Soccer Stars. What is most rewarding about that program for you?
Sharing your strengths with a child who is curious is an amazing feeling. When the high school students first come to Soccer Stars to work with younger kids, they are nervous. In the moment it’s fun for them to play soccer and have a little kid chasing them around asking questions. Once they get over their initial anxiety, they start to explain the game and techniques. It’s a very safe space to step into as a young leader. The more they coach, the more they feel empowered and realize how much fun service to the community can be.
What is the impact on the young kids?
For the young kids, you see how much it means to get that positive attention from a teenager. They really respond to each other’s energy. You see them really open up and respond differently than they do with adults.
With more high school students, the young ones get more individualized attention. It’s tremendous to see 50 young people get off the screens and go be part of the community.
So many of the staff at Parks and Rec grew up going to programs like yours. Have you seen how the camps lead to jobs for young people?
For sure. Volunteering gives you a great reference for summer jobs at the rec centers and at programs like the Sanneh Foundation. I’ve seen kids mentor for Soccer Stars, then get hired by the Sanneh Foundation to coach during the day. Then they go home to eat, grab a nap, and then go back in the evening to work at the rec center through the Right Track jobs program.
What support do your programs need?
We’re really lucky that between the City budget, support from nearby businesses, and groups like the NW Como Booster Club, all these camps can be free. Because the experience creates such a sense of community, it means a lot to the kids that we can also give out free t-shirts.
All the rec facilities for soccer at this end of the city are great – we’re in a wonderful position. Something like McMurray Field is a huge asset. It’s open all the time. There’s no league or score board, you can just jump in and play.
Having turf fields– like what they are putting in at the North End Community Center and Arlington – make a real difference. We do need fields that are the right size for high school soccer – it can be a difference of just 3 feet on either side!
What are your favorite parks?
I grew up playing at Hillcrest Rec Center. Living near there I used to go down to Hidden Falls. The river park system is just amazing. I go to the dog park at Arlington-Arkwright all the time. We are so lucky to live near Como. Battle Creek is also a great place to go with the dogs.