Kickers Soccer Club was born in the late 1960s with four
youth teams, one adult team and a total of 78 players.
Since then, the organization has grown to more than
8,500 members between ages 3 and 18 representing 15
regions in southeastern Wisconsin. It is now the largest
club in the state. Executive Director Alvaro
Garcia-Velez talks with MKE Lifestyle about the
organization, his inspiration and more.
Tell us about the
origins of Milwaukee Kickers?
In the late 1960s, organized soccer was virtually unknown in most areas
of the country. However, the soccer phenomenon swept the Milwaukee area
in 1968 when the Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club (MKSC) began formal
operations. MKSCís 12 founders had a vision: attract, develop and retain
soccer players of all ages and abilities without regard to gender, race,
national origin, religion or socioeconomic status. To do this, MKSC
created a cost-effective and financially stable organization with
quality coaches, referees and administrators. While American youth
soccer did exist before 1968 through ethnic clubs, the sport was not
How did you become
have always been a soccer player, albeit, average at best. I began
coaching around 20 years ago and stuck with it. Iíve coached a variety
of ages and levels over the years. I have also been able to coach all
four of my kids at some point in time. My wife also coached for a number
of years as well. 11 years ago, I was approached by a member of the MKSC
board asking if I would be interested in applying for the executive
director position. Itís been a great fit and I celebrated 10 years as ED
in February 2018.
How does it work to
help the community?
For many itís the first opportunity they have to play an organized
sport, in many cases with friends. Itís our goal and that of many youth
organizations, Iím sure, that these are the first steps to teaching kids
valuable lessons like teamwork, leadership and confidence that help
build character that ultimately turn them into future leaders in their
What appeals to you
about the mission?
Iím driven to ensure that we provide programming to anyone who wants to
play soccer or be involved in the sport. That was the original mission
of our founders and (I) feel weíve done our best to adhere to that. I am
also very vested in our outreach programs. I think itís very important
that we continue to provide soccer and positive outlets to kids who
otherwise would not have them.
What inspires you?
Iím inspired by the work of others, like my wife who has dedicated her
entire career to the service of others. Sheís a public school principal
that deals with societyís good and bad and truly cares for her kids and
parents and does everything she can to ensure their success. Iím
inspired by the hard work of our clubís outreach staff, watching them
develop and grow programs that promote soccer and healthy lifestyles in
the central city. Our own park staff, working long hours making sure
our tournaments and events are enjoyable for all that attend. I get
inspired by the simple random acts of kindness that you see every day,
peopleís kindness and willingness to help strangers. I love watching our
U6-U7-U8 rec kids play soccer on Saturday mornings during the season.
Watching them play for the sheer joy of it, no pressure, no ďcollege
scholarshipsĒ on the line, just having fun.
Whatís an important
lesson youíve learned through Milwaukee Kickers?
Every day is a
learning experience for me. I learn from our staff, parents, volunteers
and coaches. Iíve learned that parents want whatís best for their kids;
unfortunately they donít always articulate it in the most productive
fashion and itís our job to help them frame exactly what they want. Iíve
also learned, as (author) Ian Maclaren said: ďBe kind, for everyone you
meet is fighting a hard battle.Ē I think itís important that we remember
everyone has a story, some good, some bad. And those of us that work
with the public need to remember that there are many things that can
make your day good or bad. Remember to give people the benefit of the
doubt; donít judge too quickly.
Family. Iíve been married for 26 years to my wife, Mary. I have four
kids: Margot, Sofi, Andy and Cecilia. We also have a Lab/shepherd mix
2 I own a couple of bikes and love spending time taking long
rides, and during warmer weather I try to ride to work as much as
3 I enjoy all that Milwaukee has to offer, from the lakefront to
festivals to farmers markets, getting outside as much as possible.
4 One of my guilty pleasures is the Grateful Dead. Iím a huge fan.
5 I enjoy reading. I usually have two books going at a time, one
for pleasure and one for professional development.