YAN – Dearborn
To Mohamed Alrayyashi, soccer is not a mere sport; it is an activity to channel children’s energy in the right direction. Instead of having children loitering aimlessly, he wants them on the soccer field enjoying their time while building their character.
Alrayyashi has been a coach at Salina School for the Michigan Yemen Soccer Association (MYSA) for 12 years. Although he volunteers about a dozen hours of his time each week, Alrayyashi says the trust of the students and the positive impact the program has on them are rewarding enough.
“These kids treat me as their mentor, their brother, one of their family,” Alrayyashi told the Yemeni American News. “I try to make sure that their grades are doing good, they’re doing good with their families, their behavior is better. They’re not just here to play soccer only. They’re here to learn manners and to treat one another with respect. I don’t get paid. We’re all volunteers here.”
Alrayyashi expressed gratitude to ACCESS and Dearborn Schools for providing a space for the children to play, but he called for a greater investment from the city, as the students are currently practicing in a basketball field.
“I mean if you look at the number 300 plus kids at least they should do that because all these kids should have a place to play in and at least keeping them in a place is better than keeping them in the street where they may smoke or end up in a bad area,” he said.
The program is more than a game, he added, saying that it was meant to build leadership for the students..
“Well, honestly like I said, I don’t treat it as soccer only. I treated as a school-related activity to get the kids out of the street. And in the future, they will receive more than just soccer,” Alrayyashi said. “They’ll receive leadership and then hopefully, make it to the college soccer, hopefully, make it to beyond just college or professional.”
He also urged parents to support their children, saying that students tend to perform better on the field and at school when their parents are behind them.
Alrayyashi coaches children between the age of 6 and 13. Many of his students have gone on to received soccer scholarship for college.
Mohamed Shajrah, a parent whose son, Adem is in the program, praised Alrayyashi, saying that the coach helps the community and interacts with each student to help with their development. “That’s what I wanted for my son.”
Shajrah said Alrayyashi engages and motivates students to improve.
“People say soccer practice but he teaches them a lot of things. He teaches them about school. This is a privilege for you. If you don’t do good in school, you can’t have this privilege, so he actually checks people’s grades; he makes the students bring their grades to allow them to participate.”
MYSA founder Mohamed Altriadi recalled when Alrayyashi was still a player in the program, 16 years ago. Alrayyashi showed signs of promise and leadership early on, according to Altriadi.
“I have to mention Ibrahim Nasir who was the person who worked with Mohamed and supported him. He urged him to take the coaching certification,” Altriadi told YAN.
He also lauded the coach’s dedication.
“I can easily say that there is no one else that I can compare him to Mohamed in our sport activities. That is based on all the years of experience that I spent with him. He volunteered with the organization to the point where he sacrificed his own personal and family time,” Altriadi continued.
“What’s even more interesting is that he does not complain whatsoever. He always appears very happy. The one thing that I would say is to ask God to reward him for what he did for us and for taking such heavy burden on my behalf all towards the work of the organization.”
For his part Alrayyashi credited his family for his success.
“My family had a lot to do with what I am doing right now. My parents taught me and siblings to always help others and never expect anything in return. My dad himself was always known for helping others,” he said. “So I truly thank my family for always standing by my side and believing in what I do.”