This is a good year for Sheffield High, in Memphis – the school is building its very first girls’ soccer team. And about time! Memphis has a robust soccer community, with rec leagues up the wazoo for all ages, and the best soccer pub in the state of Tennessee situated right in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of the city. But while Sheffield has had a boy’s team, there never seemed to be the resources for a girls’ team. Sound unfair?
“It’s just a lack of funding,” explains Jamie Naylor, co-owner with her husband of Celtic Crossing Irish Pub and Restaurant, a haven for Memphis soccer fans. She is spearheading an ioby campaign to cover startup costs for the team – team fees, equipment, coaching and training, and field improvements. “There’s such an imbalance. From what I understand, every sport gets a certain amount of money, and some sports get more money. There’s still such a focus on football and basketball, at least here in Memphis.”
Find your natural allies
One of the super cool lessons to learn from this campaign has to do with how the person with the lightbulb idea found the right person to bring it to life. It was a Teach For America Fellow at Sheffield, actually, who initially realized that the school should have a girls’ soccer team; she did her homework, discovered that Celtic Crossing was the epicenter of the soccer community, and – though neither of Naylor’s two young children are students at Sheffield – reached out to Naylor for help.
Naylor jumped on board, bringing the idea to her over-35 women’s league, and immediately brainstorming with the larger community. Soon, her women’s league was hosting equipment drives and dropping in on Sheffield High soccer practice sessions. At the pub, she’s been asking her regulars to contribute, and they’ve been saying yes.
[The Sheffield girls’ team practicing]
“My father got married when I was young,” Naylor explains of her early start in the sport, “and I went from being an only child – you know, father-daughter – to having three stepbrothers. So it was kind of like ‘you play sports with your brothers or you don’t have anyone to play with.’ But I was probably the most athletic, so it stuck with me.” From an early age, she took the initiative when it came to soccer. “I remember kind of wanting to play and there was a group of girls that were practicing on a soccer field near where we lived,” Naylor explains, “and I ran out to the coach and said ‘hey, can I play?’ And that’s kind of how I went from just your traditional YMCA rec league to playing in the more competitive church league, and then the more competitive club leagues.” It’s exactly the go-get-it approach she’s been taking to the Sheffield campaign.
[These soccer fans are helping support the Sheffield girls’ love of the game]
The value of having a local business on board
Think you know die-hard sports fans? Try this on for size: it’s not unusual to see 20 soccer fans gathered in Celtic Crossing at 7am, watching a night game being played overseas. “We’re actually kind of known for our love of soccer,” Naylor says of Celtic, which her husband opened eleven years ago. It’s where they met, over fan-banter and beers. “We open up early for the English premiere League games. We consider ourselves not just the soccer bar of our neighborhood, but also the soccer bar of Tennessee. We definitely pride ourselves on being a soccer bar. I was laughing at my husband this weekend, because he’s already thinking about the World Cup. He’s like ‘ok, when are the games? The World Cup is gonna be in Russia, so if it’s a 7pm game in Russia then…’ and I’m like ‘that’s two years from now!’”
Because Naylor and her husband have built such a loyal, trusting, and passionately soccer-oriented client base, they’re in the perfect position to help raise money for Sheffield’s team. “We being husband and wife owning the bar, when you come to Celtic, it’s a very kind of neighborhood family environment. My husband and I have two children – a nine month old and an almost four year old. All of our regular customers are seeing them grow up. So they know that we’re passionate about soccer, we’re passionate about Memphis, about our neighborhood, and that we do a lot for the community, and so we wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important to us. It seems like working hard on our business pays off when we can do stuff like this.”
Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.
Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Want more Memphis? Read about how this Memphis high school started from zero and raised over $20,000 to landscape its rundown lot.