Jose Alfaro of Huntington Station decided a decade ago that he wanted to do something in the community that involved his favorite pastime, soccer. He quit his full-time job and began working towards his new goal – to help out kids in the community.
“This is something I always wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to give back and get the kids involved… if they can play soccer, or any sport, it’s fun for me and it’s good for them, too.”
The 32-year-old originally trained kids outside of Huntington. At 23, he took a job as a soccer coach at Huntington High School, bringing his expertise back to where he grew up. Eventually his leadership became bigger and more people began to take notice.
While coaching at the high school, Alfaro is known in the community for two other things; being the director of his training academy, Alfaro Soccer Academy which is working with the Suffolk County Police Athletic League Inc. (PAL) and the Suffolk County Police Department Second Precinct), as well as his new soccer club, Huntington Inter FC.
This is the third term the academy will be helping PAL. Their first session, which happened this past spring, had over 300 kids sign up for the first practice.
“I tend to keep everything local, so all of my assistant coaches are actually graduates of Huntington High, Walt Whitman and the surrounding schools,” he said. “Plus, it’s all free.”
The No-Cost Soccer Program for Huntington Youth was put into place by PAL, the second precinct, Councilman Eugene Cook and the Huntington Town Board. Huntington children in grades 2-8 are welcome at Manor Field Park on Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. until Nov. 14.
“A lot of kids can’t afford it, but a lot of those kids need soccer,” Alfaro said. “If I can keep the kids out of hanging in the wrong areas, or just to keep them busy and have them play soccer, then I’m doing my job.”
The program came at a time when there was a lot of tension within the community. After talking with the local precinct, Alfaro said he would participate on one condition: for this to be solely about the kids.
“When I met with them, I told them to do this whole heartedly,” he said, “I told them to do it for the kids and to make sure that their hearts were in the right place.”
It ended up being a huge success – kids and their parents got involved, along with the school districts, which offered buses after school to kids who needed a ride to the field. Local officers came out and took pictures with the kids, Alfaro added, “making it easy to view the police force in a better environment, rather than feeling afraid or scared.”
“Jose has used his passion and expertise to make a huge impact on the kids in the community,” SCPD Officer Claudia Delgado said. “The league is important because it offers the opportunity for kids to interact with positive role models such as Jose, police officers, and other community leaders.”
The fall term, which started this week, had over 200 kids show up on its first day. Alfaro added that they plan on keeping the program going as long as they can. “A lot of people love the program,” he said. “As long as people want to do it and as long as the town will give us the fields, we’ll be there.”
“This league coming to fruition is the perfect example of what the community can accomplish when we work together,” Officer Delgado added.
With this outreach in the community, Alfaro wants the kids who fall in love with soccer to stay with it. Many of the kids who participate in the police league ended up becoming students at his private club.
“The kids who want to continue playing and who want to do more, I invite them to come to my soccer club,” he said, noting that soccer is a sport that kids outgrow rather quickly due to other commitments. “My idea is to kind of keep that door open for kids so there’s an opportunity for them to continue.”
The Huntington Inter FC became an official soccer club three months ago and already has over 60 kids involved. Alfaro offers both in-house teams during the week and on weekends, along with traveling teams, which will compete with other local clubs on the island.
Alfaro has gathered permits to all the parks in Huntington and holds his practices on the fields. “It’s just fun,” he said. “I tell them to enjoy it and to let it be a way for them to excel, especially for the kids who may not speak English or whose parents just came here.
He said that 90 percent of his kids are Spanish-speaking, so he strives to help them and their parents get acclimated. He also works with families who may not be able to afford the club through payment plans and scholarships. “As long as the kids are happy and doing it, I’m always here to help,” he said.