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Nonprofit sports facility offers club soccer to kids on Chicago's West Side

Nonprofit sports facility offers club soccer to kids on Chicago's West Side
Nonprofit sports facility offers club soccer to kids on Chicago's West Side 02:45

CHICAGO (CBS) – Just over a year ago, former Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and many others helped open a new sports facility on the city's West Side.

Many of its programs are taking off in year two.

Intentional Sports is a nonprofit organization that opened in the North Austin community last February with the backing of Heyward and the Chicago Fire.

Since then, the 10-acre, $31 million training facility has seen growth for several of its programs. Soccer is one of its fastest-growing clubs.

When Gabe Garcia took on the role of business development manager for soccer at International Sports, the vision was clear: to fill its turf fields.

"We had about probably 15 kids, and now we're at probably 100 for our academies," Garcia said.

He and the coaches took things to the next level, starting youth travel teams for kids between 8 and 11 years old this winter.

"32 players, we actually identified them through the academy, so through our first program," he said. "We kind of realized, 'Hey, there's a special group of kids here, and we want to give them a little bit more.'"

Players train twice a week and compete in games against other local clubs. However, the opportunity to develop skills in a professional and caring environment is unique.

"I feel like they teach me good things, like my other coaches, they teach us new things every day too," said 8-year-old Delilah Martinez.

Garcia added, "I'm very thankful for having Bardia and coach Alex, and now we joined Mackenzie, so we have a really good staff, but I think we can build something truly special where we could help produce not only good soccer players, but I think produce good student athletes and overall good human beings."

The main goal is to offer soccer to all through discount forms and fundraising, everybody is welcome on the West Side.

"At the end of the day, we want a safe place for kids to play," Garcia said. "There's no institution that I've worked for that has this power. Just seeing these inner city kids that love this game so much, it's very fulfilling."

Intentional Sports recently celebrated its first anniversary, but enough time has passed for dreams to be planted.

"I saw my dad playing when I was 3 years old," said 11-year-old Anthony Cahuatijo. "He won a lot of championships and I told myself that I want to play soccer when I grow up."

"I want to be a professional player when I grow up," Martinez said.

It's a dream that seems possible playing for a club with good intentions.

Garcia said no one is turned away from playing. A scholarship is even available for players. Their goal is to continue growing and eventually be a top club in the area.

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