Oxnard officer’s peewee soccer club builds community amid pandemic

The peewee league started small.

When Oxnard Police Cmdr. Luis McArthur started the kids soccer program about six months ago, he had two teams. The Oxnard Shields Athletic Club has since exploded into 30 teams with over 180 youngsters from across Ventura County and beyond.

Children come from as far away as Fillmore, Ojai and Santa Barbara.

The goal is to build bridges in the community by creating a “good, familiar atmosphere for kids and families,” McArthur said.

The club is mainly aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 6, although some players, such as Adalynne Villalobos, are as young as 2 years old.

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Adalynne’s father, Abraham Villalobos of Oxnard, is coaching his daughter’s team for a second season.

Seeing the kids excited motivated Villalobos to keep coaching. He hopes to stay with the same team and see them grow. The program is user-friendly, he said, with lots of parent involvement.

It “teaches kids to interact and not be shy,” he said.

The league is not competitive. At the end of the season, all participants will receive medals.

Kevin Thompson II, 4, right, kicks the ball at Oxnard College as a new youth club played on Saturday.

“We have a great representation of kids,” McArthur said of the diversity on the pitch and on the sidelines. “Through sport, children transcend cultural barriers.”

The children formed bonds that blossomed into friendships at school and close ties between participating families, he said.

“It’s a win for our community,” McArthur said of building relationships with the league.

McArthur generated interest in the club online and by word of mouth, through presentations at community events and meetings.

Jennifer Lenhart, 40, from Oxnard found the club on Facebook. His sons Calvin, 5, and Ethan, 3, are both participating. The club has been a welcome opportunity for kids to socialize during the pandemic.

“It’s a good way to get them going,” Lenhart said. “They can see their footballing friends.”

Saturday morning McArthur arrived early at Oxnard College to help set up the fields for the games. His 4-year-old daughter, Scarlett Isabellah, is among the players in the league.

“I am pleased with the partnership with Oxnard College and the help I receive from my wife, friends and other police officers who volunteer and have children playing in the program,” McArthur said.

Parents purchase Adidas uniforms and pay a $40 registration fee to cover equipment and administration costs.

The program is not associated with the Oxnard Police Department, but McArthur hopes to partner with the non-profit Oxnard Peace Officers Association to support the club’s future operations.

The current season started in January and will continue until April. The program, which McArthur hopes to run year-round, is set to begin its next season in June.

For more information, visit the club’s Facebook page at bit.ly/3Grkv0J or email [email protected]

Cytlalli Salgado is a breaking news reporter for the Ventura County Star. She can be reached by calling 805-437-0257 or emailing [email protected]

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