Players have fled 7 Civil Wars, 3 Genocides, Extreme Poverty and Famine
Students/Players live in some of the most impoverished, crime ridden neighborhoods in Cincinnati
In 2014 - the team shared 23 pairs of shoes amongst 40 players
And now the rest of story of how we got started...
On August 4, 2014 Jim Frank of Cincinnati Ohio initiated a plan of action he and his wife Mary Frank had discussed. He was to reach out to local high schools to volunteer his time assisting a soccer coaching staff. He specifically targeted Cincinnati high schools with a socio-economically disadvantage student population. His experience working with this demographic group led him to first reach out to Withrow High School. And he did so on that August day and was quickly invited to participate.
Unbeknownst to Jim, Tyler Barrott, the Withrow Head Coach for men’s soccer had already started a campaign to even the playing field for his players. All but one of the 33 players in the soccer program were/are foreign born kids and all were/are refugees from war torn nations. Wow, certainly not quite the demographic Jim was anticipating. And recognizing that Tyler had little to no staff, Jim ended up committing more time than originally anticipated.
Just the year before, Tyler’s first year coaching, Tyler had to adjust his player substitution strategy based on shoe sizes shared among similar sized players. Obviously, he was committed to not having to endure this dilemma again. So his campaign to reach out for funding and/or shoe donations began. And it was successful, garnering enough to outfit his team with much needed equipment, uniforms and personal gear for each player. The personal gear included used shoes.
* Over the past 5 years, the average team advancing to the final four of the state tournament had a median income of $87,000.
* The average income of a family attending Withrow Hight School is $23,000.
Initially, the used shoes were perceived as a great gift to solve the substitution issue and to provide players with the appropriate equipment to be competitive. But as the season wore on, players soon began complaining of sore feet, ankles, knees and shin splints. A promising 4-2 start quickly unraveled with 1-5-1 finish. The culprit, the used shoes, were most likely creating unnecessary stress on the players’ lower extremities due to the shoes haven been broken-in and molded to the feet and gait of the previous owners/wearers.
Not wanting to endure another season where players became unnecessarily fatigued, Tyler and Jim implemented a voluntary off-seasoning conditioning and training program for the players. Initially, the first few sessions were attended by the underclassmen, then over time the upperclassmen. Eventually, the soon-to-be-graduates started to participate even though they will have graduated by the fall season. The soccer program was maturing.
So with Jim committing so much time and effort to the program, and seeing commitment from the players, the weakest link to success was no longer the willingness of players to commit to the program, but it was now the quality of the shoes necessary to endure such commitment from each player. It Starts with the Shoes was created to address this immediate and reoccurring need with the hopes of growing beyond one school, one school district, one community or one region. It became Jim and Mary Frank’s mission.
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