By Mahonri Mendoza/NPSL.com
FC Buffalo assistant coach Averick Parker is bringing an assist to the community of Atlanta with help from Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU).
The first HBCU ID Camp location was a no-brainer for Parker, choosing Atlanta, GA.
“Having played soccer for Morehouse College, and growing up in Georgia, I wanted the first camp to be in Atlanta on Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. That was very important to me.”
Parker saw the HBCU ID Camp through from start to finish, down a path to reality that was anything but easy.
“So many struggles,” said Parker. “How do you start? Do I get coaches first, or do I get players first? Both go hand-in-hand because players aren’t coming if the coaches aren’t there. The coaches aren’t going to go if the players aren’t there, so it was getting that ball rolling and getting it started.”
When it was almost time for the ID camp to occur, Mother Nature appeared to have other plans for Atlanta. Weather forecasts said that Atlanta would get hit with snow and icy roads the weekend of the event. Parker’s phone was blowing up with notifications from people wondering if the show would go on.
“I’m driving from Buffalo,” said Parker. “It’s happening.”
With the help of one of the coaches, Parker came up with a backup plan, turning to indoor facilities in the area in case weather presented unsafe scenarios for the athletes. Worrying that winds would hit 25 mph with uncharacteristically cold weather plus the possibility of snow, getting an indoor facility would still allow athletes to showcase their talents in front of coaches. Players would have an alternative to showcase their talents for either six hours in two days or six hours in one day.
Fortunately, Mother Nature played ball. And so, too, would the players. Despite the struggles that Parker went through to see the HBCU ID Camp come to life, he felt accomplished for the amount of work and everything he achieved in the past year.
“One hundred percent,” said Parker. “The first time you do something like this, there’s always going to be some doubt. I was worried, I’m a worrier, I try not to be, but that’s how I kind of work sometimes. Coaches were engaged, actively looking for players and asking about contact information for the players. Players were happy, parents were happy, and the facility was happy with what we accomplished.”
HBCU ID Camp’s purpose is to put student-athletes in front of college-level scouts and coaches to obtain a college degree and the opportunity to play soccer at a higher level.
Parker plans to host this event every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend in Atlanta. Eventually, he plans to host events throughout the year, and Parker already has his next HBCU ID Camp planned out for this June.
“The plan is to take this regional,” said Parker. “The next step is to do an all-girls camp in Houston.”
Taking advantage of the HBCU programs, Parker sees this as an opportunity for more athletes to participate in HBCU DI, DII, NAIA and junior college soccer. Parker hopes that these universities will be more represented to earn more funding down the line one day.
“When working with an HBCU, you’re going to face some challenges,” said Parker. “If you’re getting interest from a predominantly white institution, you’re most likely going to have better resources than an HBCU, but to shift that, we need our top and most talented student-athletes to come to HBCUs. Pioneers usually get the arrows, so it’s always hard to be the first, but it’s worth it.”
Parker is a board member for community center Westside International Soccer in Buffalo and the head coach of Cardinal O’Hara boys soccer. He looks forward to returning to FC Buffalo for the 2022 season.
“Happy to get back on the field with the boys,” said Parker. “Last season, we had a good group of very talented guys. We didn’t get where we intended, but if we get most of them back, I feel like we can have success.”
If you’re in Atlanta, expect to see another HBCU ID Camp take place. Expect the culture to be significant.
“If an HBCU is on your radar, I’m sure your mind will be blown,” said Parker. “We need our student-athletes to come to these schools.”
Photo Credit: Dave Williamson Photography