By Laura Russo
Youth soccer fans on Roosevelt Island will have another reason to cheer this September, thanks to the Palladino Academy and the New York Red Bulls. But it’s not just kids who should be excited – the Palladino Academy has been working to enhance community engagement with all Island residents, organizing the Youth Soccer Festival, and working with students at The Child School.
Youth Soccer Festival
The Palladino Academy, Island Kids, and the New York Red Bulls have teamed up to bring the New York Red Bulls Youth Soccer Festival to Octagon Field on September 2 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, will feature games, prizes, a DJ, and skills-challenge events. Steve Jones, Training Program Manager for the New York Red Bulls, describes the event as a “festival-type atmosphere,” where novices and practiced players alike can engage with each other and the community, while developing new skills and honing their existing ones.
According to Jones, the New York Red Bulls have held similar events this summer throughout the tri-state area, but this is the first time it’s been brought here. Jones said he believes that the Palladino Academy and Island Kids are the perfect partners for an event of this nature, and that Roosevelt Island “provides the perfect backdrop.”
It’s not just the stunning views across the East River that brought together the organizations involved. Jones noted the importance of coming together to support the children of the community, saying, “These three organizations – Palladino Academy, Island Kids, and the New York Red Bulls – provide opportunity for kids; to give them the support and training is essential.”
John Palladino, head coach and founder of Palladino Academy, is looking forward to the event. He said, “It’s going to be great; the kids will have an opportunity to learn from the pros and develop their skills. Nothing like this has been done on the Island before.”
In addition to bringing the New York Red Bulls Youth Soccer Festival to Roosevelt Island, Palladino and his wife, Catherine, have been busy with a summer training camp and preparing for the upcoming competitive youth season, slated to begin on September 10, while also working to develop programs with other Roosevelt Island organizations to engage all members of the community.
The Child School
In May, the Palladino Academy worked with the New York Red Bulls to do a one-day “Phys-Ed take-over” at The Child School. Jones explained that a “Phys-Ed take-over” is a day in which trainers from the New York Red Bulls go to a school and take over every physical education class scheduled for that day. As part of the New York Red Bulls Belief Program, trainers provide demonstrations and work with kids in a program targeted to support schools and children with special needs.
Jones called the experience at The Child School “phenomenal” for both the trainers and the kids. Catherine Palladino concurred, saying that all the kids loved it, and she hopes to find a way to do it more often.
When asked if the Red Bulls would be coming back to Roosevelt Island and The Child School for additional events like the “Phys-Ed take-over,” Jones gave a resounding yes, saying “people keep asking that, and I can never say no.” He said that while fall is a busy time of year for the Red Bulls, he hopes to schedule something in the New York area and make it a yearly event.
Catherine Palladino discussed the importance of engaging with the entire Roosevelt Island community, saying, “Since we are such a small community, the more we can be involved together is essential; anything we can do to nurture and help build it will be amazing.”
In addition to programs like the “Phys-Ed take-over” with the New York Red Bulls, Catherine Palladino is working on partnering with the Special Olympics to host similar events with residents on Roosevelt Island. She noted that Roosevelt Island is “such a unique place, we are fortunate to have so much land and still be close to Queens and Manhattan; if we can do something for the Island, for residents, why wouldn’t we?”
Other Islanders are in agreement, and are taking note of this shift toward more community engagement. Island resident John Massey said, “As a parent, it’s exciting to see these new programming options continue to be offered on Roosevelt Island for our youth. It’s great to see groups like Palladino Academy provide alternatives right in our neighborhood. Not only do they offer great experiences for the kids, but I love that they bring in and sponsor other world-class organizations like the New York Red Bulls. It’s a tremendous opportunity for our local youth.”
John Palladino noted that residents are enthusiastic supporters of the youth players and Palladino Academy, saying, “It felt like all the Island came out to watch games, and we want to create a community; that’s the goal.”
Palladino said that while he is excitedly preparing for the Palladino Academy’s fall season, there has been an issue with field time and accessibility–a vital component in a competitive training academy. He explained that while he has acquired field permits for September, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) provided only three of the 13 days he requested for October.
Palladino emphasized that it is important to schedule practices while taking into account time for children’s homework and appropriate bedtime, leaving a very specific window for practices. This fall, Palladino said, will have a charge of 54 children between the ages of six and 14, and is now left to scramble to find appropriate space for the kids to practice during the month of October. He said, “This makes my job almost impossible.”
When contacted by The WIRE about the field requests, Donna Masly, RIOC Program Coordinator for Films & Permits, stated that “Island nonprofits, resident groups, and local schools are prioritized... Alternative arrangements were offered which included a different field location and the use of Sportspark.”
Palladino said that he was working on space alternatives and that the situation will not affect the Academy’s operation, but other options, including Sportspark, are triple the cost. According to Palladino, it is essential that the Academy remain affordable and open to all who participate. Increased field costs in conjunction with insurance costs are a big problem.
“I think Donna [Masly] is trying to work with us, but adults can play until 11:30 at night and you can’t play soccer without a field. In the end, we are a resident organization, working for residents; the club needs RIOC to work with us,” he said.
Catherine Palladino explained that she understood that granting field permits is a business decision for RIOC when addressing all of the requests that are received but, at times like this, it is a detriment to the youth of the Island.
She recounted a recent experience with one of the children at the academy. She said that a new child arrived, a new resident from China. The child didn’t speak any English, but there were two other children in the program who were able to translate for him, and he was able to participate. Palladino said, “We are an international Island, we are an international team, it is what makes the Island special, and we need to fuel that sense of community.”