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From the Pitch – "More Than a Game"

By CODY LAURENDI, OKC Energy FC, 07/12/18, 10:30AM EDT


Energy FC Sidekicks program has yielded heroes for all involved

Photo courtesy Steven Christy/OKC Energy FC

Back in 2016, when I first joined Energy FC, was when I was lucky enough to meet Caleb and Jack.

The club runs an incredible program called Energy Sidekicks where each player is teamed up with a special needs boy or girl. Throughout the year we get to spend time with one another through events like bowling night, meeting the Clydesdales at the Express Clydesdale barn, and my personal favorite - our player signing night.

Early in the year, the team and our sidekicks get to meet one another followed by a contract signing and jersey presentation.

During the past few years our relationship has gone beyond the Sidekicks events. I have been able to enjoy holidays with them, experience birthday parties together, and on vacation, the boys have even got to spend time with my mom and dad in Florida.

The opportunity that the Energy provides to us as players is without a doubt the best part of my time here.

We are able to use our platform as professional athletes to positively impact others  and at the same time myself, Jackson, and Caleb have developed a genuine friendship that will last forever.

At first we as players think we will be the ones who will make the impact on our sidekicks but, over time, the truth is that through seeing the strength and bravery shown in overcoming the daily struggles they face, Jack and Caleb are the ones who have left the lasting impact on me.

When spending time together, the need to be present in and enjoy the moment has become more and more evident. I talk with Caleb about what is going on in school, what his favorite subjects are, and the name of his girlfriend (even though he can be a bit shy when I ask).

With all the good that has come out of the Sidekicks program, it does not just start with me. It is evident that this program has had profound effect on every single one of my teammates. It has taught them to be more patient, caring, and loving with each one of their sidekicks.

Two examples I am privileged to see quite often come from my roommates, Richard Dixon and Jose Barril. Both Richard and Jose have made deep lasting bonds with not only the sidekicks, but also their families. Seeing that makes me proud to know them, not only as teammates, but as friends.

The role that the sidekicks program plays is crucial for community involvement, and as I stated earlier is a two-way street. Teammates regularly attend school functions, birthday parties, and family dinners and in doing so, we are able to build the foundation and set the example of what it means to be a Green!

Programs like the Sidekicks resonate with me on a deep level as I have grown up being around children with special needs. My mother has been a special needs teacher for the last 15 years so naturally when I heard about this program, I was stoked.

Photo courtesy Steven Christy/OKC Energy FC

Photo courtesy Steven Christy/OKC Energy FC

Amidst our journey for personal success and achievement on the pitch, it is extremely important to take a step back and reevaluate what really matters in life, and to me, the thing that stands out above all is the ability to make someone feel. The ability to make someone smile simply though spending time together is something that I cherish and hold on to tightly and at the end of the day is the only thing that matters.

The Sidekicks program has been one that has sparked my passion in helping others, and I plan to use this as a springboard to continue to pay it forward for the rest of my life.

"It is evident that this program has had profound effect on every single one of my teammates."


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