Terry Kegel has a vision of global change. He looks around neighborhoods and sees many people with common interests who, for various reasons, don’t interact with each other. Lost in those missed conversations are opportunities to learn about different cultures and find ground for further community involvement.
Not long ago, Kegel decided to take steps to change that dynamic to his community. The resulting West Seattle Cup soccer tournament turned out to be a launching point for what he hopes to build in an inclusive neighborhood, allowing residents to celebrate their differences and learn from each other in the process. For his efforts, Kegel was nominated as Sounders FC’s representative in the Major League Soccer Community MVP contest.
“The relationships within a neighborhood can fall along socioeconomic and cultural lines. And it’s great to have relationships with people that share your culture, but interacting across cultures takes effort,” Kegel said. “Through something like soccer that is more universal, those differences can melt away and through that we can learn from each other."
The MLS Community MVP contest has nominees representing all 19 MLS clubs. Fans can vote for the most deserving candidate by visiting http://www.mlssoccer.com/mlsworks/community-mvp/vote, with voting closing on Friday. The winning nominee will be awarded a $10,000 grant to the charity of their choice. Kegel chose “The Right to Play,” who provide sporting opportunities to kids who would not otherwise be given this opportunity.
The West Seattle Cup was just one piece in an ongoing effort by Kegel that started while he was in college.
During his playing days at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, Kegel went on offseason tours of France and Brazil. The focus of the trips was on team bonding while getting game experience, but there was another running theme that Kegel noticed that would soon inspire a documentary he would produce. Everywhere he went, he saw people of all ages playing pick-up soccer. Seeing how it brought different communities and cultures together even within the neighborhoods of Brazil, Kegel wanted to tell that story and bring a piece of it back with him to his native Seattle.
From there, “I Speak Soccer” was born.
“Those two experiences being abroad really shifted how I viewed soccer. I spent a lot of my life on the soccer field, but was very focused on competitive soccer. Playing pick-up soccer abroad changed how I related to soccer,” Kegel said. “I started seeing it as a potential starting point for relationships. I saw it as a potential mass-movements and motivating people to do things that maybe didn’t come natural. I started traveling and putting the movie together.”
Kegel grew up playing soccer in Seattle and after finishing college, went to Brazil, Thailand and Nigeria to teach. In the process, he also filmed locals playing soccer as parts of a documentary about the bond created through pick-up soccer.
“I got curious about how different the game was in different countries and even within the country,” Kegel said who then returned to Seattle to teach and raised over $5,000 through the film, with all proceeds going to the Right to Play. “There is so much diversity and people have such interesting family backgrounds and experiences, I think there is little opportunity to share those experiences. As a teacher, it’s so important that kids can have pride in their family backgrounds and that those are valued in school.”
Now teaching kindergarten at Alki Elementary School, he used the same concepts of bringing a community together through soccer to launch the West Seattle Cup in June. While there is still the potential for more growth, it has created more open communication when common bonds are struck.
“I was trying to create a structure where people could interact and learn from those international connections. It achieved the mission of bringing adults and children together to create relationships that don’t naturally happen for a variety of reasons,” Kegel said, noting his excitement about being a finalist because of the attention it brings to several issues in different cities around the league. “I was really honored. It’s a really cool program and everyone is doing such cool stuff around the league using soccer’s potential to develop some of the bigger issues in our world, in our country and in our cities. It’s humbling to be in that group and it’s really rewarding to get that sort of attention.”