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Kicking Around in the Community

GOAL! SCORE! Kim Crabbe (far right) with one of her many local soccer teams. Photo by Jamillah Galvez.

After ceremonies for an inspiring summer season of Cape Fear Soccer Community Outreach play, director and coach Kimberley Crabbe looks forward to a full year of soccer outreach in the New Hanover County public schools and other community organizations. With a focus on under-served elementary school children, many of whom have graduated, Crabbe will also visit a few of the middle schools this year to teach more advanced soccer skills.

With nine years’ experience coaching middle schools in Virginia and the Triangle area, Crabbe met Cape Fear Soccer Club (CFSC) coach Nick McCall at a Durham game in the summer of 2011. She gave him a hand-written résumé on the spot.

Fulfilling her dream of moving to the beach, she met with CFSC president Craig Johnson and Shelby Peck, who together with her husband, David, established the Evan’s Fund in honor of their late son. Peck’s last memory of her accomplished 7-year-old was of Evan on the soccer field, running the ball all the way down to the goal, turning to a teammate who rarely touched the ball and giving him the opportunity to make the score. This act of compassion from one so young moved his parents to provide the means that other children might be given a chance to succeed. After confiding her story to Crabbe, Peck knew they shared the same vision.

Last fall, Rachel Freeman Elementary School, led by Principal Adrian Pearson welcomed Crabbe to outline her soccer program on a Monday. By Wednesday, Crabbe had 111 players.

“I am excited and pleased with the partnership between New Hanover County Schools and Cape Fear Soccer to provide an after-school program to the children,” said Derrick Hickey, MD, of the NHCS Board of Education. “This partnership provides a quality activity promoting sportsmanship and teamwork while combating the epidemic of childhood obesity.”

Crabbe couldn’t be happier to be a part of it all. “I love to teach soccer,” she said of running the after-school programs at Martin Luther King Center, Maides Park Community Center and the Boys and Girls Club of Wilmington. Once again she will coach a team at Rachel Freeman. This year she will also be at Sunset Park Elementary, Snipes and Eaton to teach Cape Fear Soccer’s Little Kickers. She will visit other schools during recess and physical education periods. Thanks to Father Bob Kus, she will continue to coach a Hispanic Youth Soccer clinic after the Sunday Spanish mass service. This year she will add Top Soccer, an outreach program for handicapped children up to age 18.

One-on-one volunteers are required for some of these programs and UNCW student athletes from the men and women’s soccer teams are volunteering their time and talents. Dr. Steve Elliott, School of Health and Applied Sciences, is helping develop a health and wellness format for the CFSC outreach participants. Many parents help with the program, including Jamillah Galvez, outreach photographer and Jill-of-all-trades.

“Kim’s kindness is contagious,” Galvez said. “I’ve witnessed impoverished children show up to play soccer with no shoes, torn flip-flops, duct-taped soles, yet week after week they came. It didn’t take long to understand why the children so desperately wanted Coach Kim’s attention and approval. She gave them exactly what they needed. I was elated to see those smiling faces come and smiling faces go, knowing I had witnessed magical moments.”

“This program speaks for itself,” Crabbe adds, “but needs more support from Wilmington area businesses. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet has been with us from the beginning, and we are grateful for donations from Perry’s Emporium, Pevo Sports, Morvil Advertising and Design Group, and Quintify Database Solutions.”

The added satisfaction her kids get from playing is priceless. For some of the children, it’s a huge leap to be willing to walk away from the familiar surroundings of their neighborhood and join a team of kids they’ve never met before.

Logan Brown, age 11, put it this way: “It was awkward at first, not knowing the kids. But playing soccer with Coach Crabbe was fun, and I met Jeremiah Wilson, who goes to my school, this year. We wave to each other on the playground.” Younger brother Jake Brown, age 6, was stoked because he got his first trophy!

“This may be a free program, but I expect our kids to show up, get out there and give it all they’ve got!” Coach Kim notes.

As the first African-American to play for the 1986 U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, which was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Crabbe has overcome her own awkward moments of being the only minority on her team. But her big-hearted manner and easy laugh help her shake off negativity and continue to excel in the game. A vehicle for travel, playing excellent soccer gave her access to many cities in the U.S., plus foreign countries, including Italy, Germany and Ireland, where the kids asked her to come play on the street with them—and she did.

Crabbe participated in a documentary, “The Anderson Monarchs,” which describes the role of African-American women in soccer and features First Lady Michelle Obama. It will be released soon (preview at www.soccersistersunited.org).

“Coach Crabbe is a phenomenally gifted soccer instructor,” said Mary Jones, recreation supervisor at MLK Center. “Through her love, discipline and overall enthusiastic appeal for soccer, the children adore Coach Kimmie. The community could not have found a greater gift than Coach Crabbe.”

For more information, call Kimberley Crabbe at 910-231-0449 or Google Cape Fear Soccer Outreach Program.

This story is dedicated to Elizabeth Carol Williams Brown who quietly “walks the talk.”

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