The gym at the Charles G. Fraser Public School in Toronto isn’t appealing on the surface. Brown and red tiles adorn what seems to be a standard, dimly lit PE chamber. But on Wednesday nights, the sight of flurried feet fill the gym. A symphony of laughter, shouts, and the thud of feet kicking a ball echoes around the room.
Wednesday night is when NUTMEG holds its 12 to 18-year-old co-ed soccer class.
NUTMEG is a free soccer program that caters to underserved, low-income youth. The group focuses on serving the Alexandra Park community, but welcomes any youth who want to join.
“We are trying to address the population who may not have the access to soccer clinics, soccer camps, or may just not have the funds,” says Akshay Shirodker, a NUTMEG coach.
The group’s name comes from the nutmeg soccer move. A nutmeg is when a player kicks the ball through an opponent’s feet.
NUTMEG co-founder, Javier Diaz, says the name is representative of the groups’s mission.
“The nutmeg is a metaphor. You can pass through a situation in your life using soccer,” Diaz says.
NUTMEG stands for Not-For-Profit United Team Of Mentors Educators and Grassroots Coaches.
On top of teaching soccer, the group’s coaches try to help the young members by teaching life skills during their sessions.
“We try to get them to talk about leadership skills, consistency, time management … different types of life skills that can help them beyond the field of soccer,” Shirodker says.
One of the people benefiting from the class is Lhiam Eslait, a youth from Columbia who has been living in Canada for three months. He attends the 12 to 18-year-old soccer class.
“The program teaches me honesty, and to respect the rules,” Eslait says.
Bisayo Awude is another youth attending the same class.
“It has taught me to come early for the program, and [to put] hard work in everything I do,” Awude says.
Much like the youth attending the classes, Diaz feels rewarded by the program.
“It’s one of the most amazing things that i’ve done in my life,” Diaz says. “To be able to propagate these values and this way to use something fun for the youth of the community.”