Avera Medical Minute: Giving Sioux Falls youth a space to play soccer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - It's no surprise that the world's most popular sport, soccer, found its way to Sioux Falls.

But, playing the game can be difficult, especially when several months throughout the year it's too cold to go outside. Now, a partnership with Avera has changed the "game" for many young adults in Sioux Falls.

"I love everything," Anwar Ibrahim, soccer player, said. "Just joy, you know, two hours or one hour that I just enjoy and be myself."

For Ibrahim, soccer has been part of his life for 13 years. But, that passion and love used to be put on hold during the winter months until the partnership with Brian Pederson, a professional soccer player, and Avera began.

"We're going into our second year now and what we have is a group of players that want to play all the time and they want to train all the time," Pederson, the founder of the Avera Soccer Academy, said. "So, we put up a program where five days a week we have them in here, where they're doing skill work, playing and they fitness and strengthening conditioning."

With being the world's most popular sport, all the players come from different backgrounds.

"We have over 20 languages here, 20 different cultures the common ground is playing and then we just add these other pieces into it to put together a proper football or soccer center," Pederson said. "That's really all that I'm doing. The passion, the competitiveness, the discipline, the commitment all of that's in place we're just putting an added layer to it to make it a professional setting. And these kids crave that.

"There's so many players from different countries, and there's so many styles of play and Brian has put a program where we can all share one thing that we love," Ibrahim said. "So, we feel at home every time we come here."

For Pederson, his goal is to help the players by spending time with them and getting to know them.

"That's what I'm doing, and so it can go a lot of different ways," Pederson said. "But, it's always going to be dictated off of the players. It's a players' game, and we've got to serve the players."

And the lessons don't stop once the whistle blows, many players feel they can go up to Pederson and get his opinion if they have a problem on or off the field. To create this community feel was the real goal all along.

"They come by every day of the week and train hard and work hard, have great manners, developing real relationships," Pederson said. "I think slowly but surely it's organically changing lives, I believe that."

"We are a family, big family," Ibrahim said.

The Avera Soccer Academy is completely free and runs Monday through Friday and has open play on the weekends.

For more information, you can visit avera.org.