New Dimensions soccer helps low-income St. Louis kids

For 17 years, New Dimensions has provided low-income children in the St. Louis area with something their affluent peers take for granted: access to football. The non-profit organization has offered countless children, including many refugees and immigrants, a quality football program for free.

Organization co-founder Tom Michler says the focus is on football, but the game is an opportunity to offer so much more.

New Dimensions co-founder Tom Michler sees the impact of New Dimensions well beyond football.

“It’s really about using a sport to connect with kids and then do more — mentoring and life skills,” he said. “And a lot of these life skills, teachings, happen spontaneously.”

At a May 7 New Dimensions training session at McKinley Practice Field, Patricia Thompson of St. Louis called New Dimensions a “wonderful community.”

As a single parent raising two foster children, Thompson said the interaction between the coaches and their foster sons keeps her coming back every Saturday.

“For example today the trainer had asked if my eldest son Enzie would be able to drive the tractor and mow the field which is a huge ego boost for a foster boy. All coaches interact with them that way,” she said.

For Nadia Soudani, who immigrated to St. Louis from Lebanon five months ago, New Dimensions offers a place for her family to connect in the city.

“It is especially good to have a group activity with children [since] we don’t know many people in St. Louis,” she said.

Many parents at Saturday’s practice cited the diversity of the New Dimensions attendees as the main reason they stayed. This is music to Michler’s ears, who founded the group with this value in mind.

New Dimensions volunteers hand out prizes and hot dogs after practice.

New Dimensions volunteers hand out prizes and hot dogs after practice.

“We want to bring all the kids together, but really [try] to focus on the kids who just wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise,” he said.

When Michler started the program in 2005, he said he saw it as an opportunity not only to expose his own children to people from all backgrounds, “but also to give kids who were new to St. Louis something to do to help.” to do it assimilate into the culture.”

New Dimensions currently offers exercises for 5 to 12 year olds every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. from April to September. There is no cost and there is no registration.

“Come out if you can; We’re glad you’re here,” he said. “If you can’t do it, try to do it again soon.”

Parents are encouraged to stay and watch, and after practice there are prizes and hot dogs for the kids.

After September there is a structured league. “In the fall we will play our league, which will have registration, schedule, [and] You will have an opponent,” he said.

Michler also works with New Dimensions staff and volunteers on a program that takes children from the age of 2 through the post-secondary level.

St. Louis resident and longtime soccer umpire Monroe Smith, who develops the program with Michler, describes it as “a life skills program with soccer as the hook.”

“[Once] we have a brain that can regulate itself,” Smith said, “[then] We focus on academics and say, ‘okay, how do you study? What you are doing? How are you doing in school?'”

Tom Michler talks about New Dimensions in St. Louis on the Air

The program would then keep in touch with the children from elementary school through high school and beyond, giving them access to a community for guidance and mentoring.

“We try to create an environment where they feel valued,” Michler said. “If we can have that as a theme throughout the program, about helping kids make choices that work for them, [and] If we can build micro-communities of support around the kids, they will thrive.”

related events
What: Saturday spring football
When: 10am-11:30am on Saturdays from April to September
Where: McKinley Training Field (2141 Allen Ave., St. Louis, MO 63104)

What: Beyond football after school program
When: 16:30-18:00, Tuesdays and Thursdays
Where: Gene Slay Girls & Boys Club of St. Louis (2524 S. 11th St., St. Louis, MO 63104)

St Louis in the air‘ brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our area. The show is moderated by Sarah Fenke and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The sound engineer is Aaron Dorr.

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