RENTON — A few hours before the Seattle Sounders crushed the Houston Dynamo, Brad Evans and the RAVE Foundation opened their second minipitch/futsal court in the Renton Highlands. The Highlands Park court, next to an elementary school, adds soccer to available activities like tennis and basketball.
The week prior the Foundation opened a pitch at Seahurst Elementary.
For much of the stricter health policy portion of the pandemic, the pace of mini-pitch openings had slowed. Club Ambassador Evans switched up his approach. Rather than appear at assemblies and pitch openings he would host video conferences with kids around the region.
Now he’s reconnecting with those communities and opening the mini-pitches again. Most of them are outside of Seattle proper over on the West Hill around Burien/SeaTac/Des Moines and now out in the Renton Highlands.
“We have to start reaching these communities outside of our little circle. And so that was really cool to see this full-circle moment come about today,” Evans told Sounder at Heart about visiting a community he’d previously met virtually. “When you come here the support is fantastic. These jerseys all throughout this community and love of soccer, which is really, really good.”
Evans spoke to the group of kids, able to meet one of the more charismatic stars that donned the Rave Green. Later he played soccer on the brand new futsal-style court with those kids.
Some did skip the opportunity to get a signature because there was free ice cream. A nice benefit on a warm day.
Brad was emphatic that he loves to encourage kids to play. That is a pillar for the Sounders’ social responsibility platform. The play he wants is soccer.
“For me, selfishly, I want to see soccer,” Evans said. “You know I grew up in Arizona where all the fields were dirt most of the time, so to have a dedicated place to play is really important to me. Again, selfishly I’m a soccer player.”
At the Highlands Park event there are jerseys for a half-dozen different youth clubs scattered among the greens and purples of the Sounders. It’s an area that has produced a few pros via homestay or development. Since it was a matchday no current pros attended. Maybe a few future ones were there on the new pitch.
“Yes, we have our own academy, but we still need to be engaged in all their communities and the youth soccer scene,” Evans said. “There’s ultimately a massive community of soccer players. It shouldn’t go unnoticed. Selfishly, if I see a really good player maybe they’ll be an academy player for our team. That’s how my mind works.
“There’s a lot of smaller clubs with massive soccer passion and the love for the sport which is so cool. And they get a boost because they get to be around soccer twice today. I did a soccer camp this morning for two hours, now this and then straight off to the game so there’s a lot of soccer around Seattle today.”
For the kids in Renton Highlands there will be a lot of soccer on more days. The courts are usable year-round, rain or shine. The club gave away balls during the park opening and at a previous event — something they’ve done at all the pitch openings.
There are more pitches planned, and not just in Seattle proper. More for King County, for Pierce County, and even over on the dry side of the state. To reference the Seattle Sounders social pillar again, they’re going to Defend the Right to Play not just for the youth of Seattle, but for all of the People of the Sound.