Invite to White House – not just for kicks

Coatesville soccer program to be recognized as model initiative

By Kathleen Brady SheaManaging Editor, The Times

With Rob Smith (grey shirt) leading the charge, young players from Regency Park Apartments and Indian Run mobile home park practice their “Soccer for Success” skills.

With Rob Smith (grey shirt) leading the charge, young players from Regency Park Apartments and Indian Run mobile home park practice their “Soccer for Success” skills.

It started about a year ago on a modest level: A group of 5- to 10-year-olds practiced soccer drills in a parking lot of the Regency Park Apartments in Coatesville.

But the driving force behind initiating the program, J.T. Dorsey, a former high school and professional soccer standout who once lived at Regency, exerted a magnetic pull. The local “Soccer for Success” program quickly expanded its nutrition and exercise regimen, added games and other teams, and now has a date with the White House.

On Tuesday, 25 eager young athletes will travel by bus to Washington D.C., where they will be welcomed at the southeast gate of the White House and treated to a tour of the first floor. Then President Obama will address them – a prelude to a soccer clinic on the south lawn that will offer the Coatesville crew a chance to display dazzling moves.

J.T. Dorsey (blue shirt) offers tips to a group of young soccer players before a scrimmage.

J.T. Dorsey (blue shirt) offers tips to a group of young soccer players before a scrimmage.

“Everyone is super excited,” said Rob Smith, who works for the J.T. Dorsey Foundation. Smith said he got the news recently when Dorsey sent him a text, urging him to call because he had “something big to report.” Smith said he dialed the number and could hardly believe what he was hearing. “I think I was more excited than the 10-year-olds,” he said.

Smith said the invitation occurred because the First Lady’s staff had reached out to the U.S. Soccer Foundation, which runs the “Soccer for Success” program. The program’s emphasis on using soccer to fight obesity dovetailed with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! Active Schools” initiative.

The soccer foundation then contacted Dorsey, who knew he had a model program in his hometown, where he once exceled as a mid-fielder for Coatesville High. Although the players’ enthusiasm is high, Smith said he’s not sure they fully comprehend the enormity of the opportunity. “At some point down the road, I think they’ll look back on this and realize that they were part of something really great,” he said.

Smith said the company that owns the Regency Park Apartments is providing funding for the trip. “Some of the parents are so thrilled that they’re going to follow us down there,” he said.

Dorsey began the summer program about a year ago when the U.S. Soccer Foundation wanted to expand its “Soccer for Success” program around Philadelphia and sought his help. He attached a condition to their partnership: One of the sites needed to be his hometown. Since then he has continued to grow the program and is starting a new one in Pottstown on Monday, Smith said.

As established by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, the grant-funded “Soccer for Success” program uses soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity, promote healthy lifestyles for children in under-resourced urban communities, and provide them with free after-school programming.

Dorsey, who relocated to the state capital after he was picked up in 1998 by the Hershey Wildcats, ended up staying in that area after he retired in 2006 from the Harrisburg City Islanders. But he maintains a close allegiance to Coatesville, where he still has relatives.

Dorsey said he was inspired by his mother, the late Robin M. Dorsey, a minister and community activist in Coatesville, to start the J.T. Dorsey Foundation, which helps fund programs such as after-school soccer and future leaders.

Smith said programs at Regency Park and Indian Run mobile home park in Honey Brook are supported by both foundations, but because of high interest, Dorsey recently added the Coatesville United Soccer League in an effort to serve more children. It requires a nominal $50 participation fee so that organizers can meet expenses, Smith said, adding that the White House trip may generate more participants.

“When people complain that there’s nothing for their kids to do, that’s not true,” Smith said. “Here’s a program that involves kicking a soccer ball, but we’re also teaching much more than that.”

Smith said he hopes the program will continue its growth, an effort that will require more volunteer parents, coaches and mentors. “It’s such a great way to get exercise,” he said. “I tell parents to wear their sneakers when they come to watch, and sometimes we get them out on the field doing drills with the kids. It’s wonderful for everyone to see the whole family engaged in positive activity.”

To help fund the programs, the JTDF will host its annual golf outing on May 19 and 20, at Valley Green Golf Course in Etters, Pa.  The cost is $250 a foursome or $70 for an individual. To register, go to



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