- Faith & Family
About 150 young boys and another 35 young girls between 5- and 15-years-old have made Oak Grove Park [690 NE 159th Street] their second home and after school haven after getting involved in one of Miami-Dade County’s newest youth football leagues. Now after two years of promoting and building up the program, volunteer coaches and parents find themselves without a home field on which their kids can play. It seems that soccer, another sport that continues to grow in popularity both in the County and across the U.S., has been given the go-ahead for the park’s coveted fields, while football is being turned away.
“The park was in horrible condition and we knew back in March that extensive renovations would have to be completed before our kids could get back on the fields,” said Joel Sejour, one of the coaches for the Oak Grove Raiders. “But we began training and found other places, like the field adjacent to Holy Family Catholic Church, on which to hold our practices. Since we played a full season last year at Oak Grove and because we had paid the insurance for our players, we believed that once the field was ready in mid-October, that we would be able to get back on the fields there. Then someone from Commissioner Monestime’s office told us that we would not be allowed to return — the new goal was to make room for soccer.”
Sejour added that without a home base, he and the rest of the coaches must pack up all of their children and transport them to other fields. The team operates under the non-profit Helping Hands and he believes that both football and soccer can be played on the fields. But he fears that money will run out before the team gets approval.
“It costs us between $500 and $800 each week to get our kids around — even coaches and parents are contributing but our budget can’t sustain this much longer,” he said.
Word from the commissioner’s office
County Commissioner Jean Monestime [District 2] says that he would like the park facilities to be open for activities, including football and soccer, as well as other sports.
“I’m a huge sports fan but we need more parks in District 2,” he said. “Until that happens, I encourage all of our sports leaders to work with Parks to facilitate the co-utilization of our fields. According to Parks, there had never been any official football program at Oak Grove. I wanted to hear from the team but a meeting I asked for which was scheduled to take place yesterday was canceled at the last minute. I do not pick and chose which sports children should play. My own children play football not soccer — I am a huge supporter and have attended several pee wee and super pee wee league games.”
In an earlier televised report, Monestime stated that “the decision to transform the field into a soccer field was made prior to my arrival to the county commission.” But former commissioner, Dorrin Rolle, says he made no such decision.
“I don’t recall ever saying that the only sport that could be played at Oak Grove Park was soccer,” Rolle said. “I actually brought Charlie Brown from Gwen Cherry Park to help start an Optimist Club football league at Oak Grove. And I got them the dollars and cents they needed to make it happen. It was Haitian kids who basically came to my office and said ‘to hell with soccer — we want to play football.’ It’s pretty much just a matter of scheduling. Almost all of the children who play there are Haitian and it’s good for inter-generational bonding. I just don’t see how you can stop kids from playing on a public field — especially when it involves close to 200 kids.”
Sejour says he and the other league supervisors hope to meet with Monestime soon. But for now it’s the children who continue to worry about the future. Their homecoming game is scheduled for October 29th with the playoffs to follow. Where their “home” will be remains a mystery.