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Soccer and Tennis Coach Jorge Flores has Big Impact on Community
As part of National Hispanic Heritage Month taking place from September 15 to October 15, USTA St. Louis is featuring Jorge Flores, a coach who works with low-income families.
When Jorge Flores spent years on the soccer field officiating St. Louis club league games and tournaments, he noticed an alarming trend. Most of the pay-for-play select teams lacked Hispanic representation, so much so that Flores — a lifelong soccer player himself — was compelled to do something about it.
“During my time officiating, I couldn’t fathom there weren’t enough Hispanics,” Flores said. “There were just one to two to three Hispanics every month I would officiate. I thought to myself, ‘There has to be some kind of problem somewhere.’”
Flores’s drive to make a change only intensified when he took his nephew to a soccer club tryout. His nephew made the team but the cost of participating proved too steep; so, the family had to bypass the opportunity.
“If my nephew can’t do it, there’s got to be thousands like him,” Flores said. “And why? Why is this so overpriced? Why is it so unreachable really for the kids who don’t come from that financial backing? We tried to look for a possibility. I was completely motivated to try to find some change within our community and mostly within our sport.”
Flores got to looking around neighborhoods and struck up conversations with parents and friends about the recurring problem he saw. He came across a small crew of parents and players who held his same philosophy. Soon after, Flores decided to launch Dream Big Foundation — a nonprofit, low-cost, independent soccer club — and the organization has been humming along for more than seven years now.
“We found ways to make it as affordable as possible and just give a playing field for kids who are underprivileged and don’t get that support financially from home,” Flores said. “We do the best we can and reach out to many different kids who come from so many different counties and communities. Them coming from everywhere in St. Louis has really been inspiring. It has enabled us to continue the dream and work really hard to impact communities.”
Flores — the facility/maintenance manager at Frontenac Racquet Club and Woodsmill Tennis Club — has about 50 kids participating in his club now and has worked with 80 to 100 boys and girls ages 4 to 17 throughout the past seven years. Players partake in practices and camps year-round with several competing on teams at the U-6, U-8, U-9 and U-10 age levels.
When Dream Big Foundation was in its infancy, Flores paid the bulk of the costs out of pocket. Fundraisers and donations have helped mitigate the cost, and Flores said the nonprofit is on stronger financial footing today.
Flores sees himself in many of his soccer players, an added motivator as he looks to continue to expand the Dream Big Foundation’s outreach. Flores got behind academically his senior year at Pattonville High School and had to skip soccer and other extracurricular activities that year to focus on catching up in the classroom.
“I look back at it now because it was such a big turning point,” Flores said. “I don’t know if I would have went on to play college or got scouted or something. It’s kind of a good and a bad. I hope my younger students don’t fall into the same trap I did. I take that experience or downfall and apply it to now.”
While soccer continues to be a mainstay in Flores’s life as it has been since he was a young boy born in Mexico, tennis is a more recent endeavor. Flores pairs up playing in a 30 & Over Vetta adult soccer league filled with diverse cultures with a USTA St. Louis 6.0 mixed doubles league. Flores grew up watching tennis on TV but didn’t begin playing until three years ago when he was hired to do maintenance work by Terry Ward.
Flores said he had a blast in the USTA St. Louis league this past summer and enjoyed meeting so many friendly teammates and competitors. He called his choice to begin working at Frontenac and Woodsmill the “best decision,” as he’s loved getting ingrained in the tennis culture.
“Soccer has more of a passion. Tennis is passionate, but it’s more friendly,” Flores said. “It’s not so much this competitive nature of ‘I have to beat you up; you have to beat me up.’ It’s more of an understanding. We’re working hard. We’re improving. We’re working together. The people who really practice and try to improve, they’re special. It goes beyond anything I’ve ever done as far as sports. It’s such a humble game. It’s kind, quiet and very addicting.”
As Flores has developed his own game, he’s taken his soccer coaching knowledge and applied it by teaching junior players and entry-level adults in tennis clinics. The similarities between the two sports — especially footwork — has aided him in transitioning as he seeks to teach tennis more frequently.
“The reason I fell in love with tennis the most is there’s always room for improvement,” Flores said. “No matter what — every single point, every serve, every volley — there are just things you can tweak. Also the longevity of how long you can play this sport. Soccer is a young man’s game. You look on the tennis court, and I might be playing with a 95-year-old. It’s fun. Just being on the court makes me super happy about being around the tennis community.”
Flores — the father of four girls and one boy — said the success of Dream Big Foundation showcases when authenticity, intention and hard work meet, great things can happen.
“I have a sense, a feeling if we can continue to expand and reach out to kids — even adults — maybe today it might be soccer. But tomorrow it might be tennis. And then something else,” Flores said. “The big impact our organization can have in our communities is just inspiring, and it’s motivating. It’s beyond being a soccer club. We’ve affected families, and we’ve hit home with children.”
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