VISTA — Longtime soccer player Jeanette Wood said several years ago she came across a player with what she thought was an interesting gait while coaching a youth team.
“I thought it was just his natural running style,” said Wood, who lives in Vista. “Sadly, it wasn’t until the end of the season that I learned his family couldn’t afford cleats, so he had been playing in hand-me-downs that were too small for his feet. I’ve never forgotten about that.”
But that boy wasn’t alone in his challenge to find proper shoes to play soccer. Wood, who has played the sport since she was a child in San Bernardino County, recalled another time when she learned about a soccer team’s players sharing cleats throughout a game because they were unable to each have a pair of their own.
With those vivid moments in her mind, Wood created Legacy Laces, a nonprofit with a mission to provide cleats to all children who want to play soccer. After just launching the charity last year, Wood now has a drop location at Momentum Training Center in San Marcos where members can donate their cleats.
“I founded Legacy Laces last year to help provide as many kids as possible with an opportunity to get off the sidelines and into the game so they could experience all the positive things that come along with playing sports,” Wood said. “We believe that kids can thrive from involvement in team sports by having an opportunity to learn about teamwork, make lasting friendships, develop communication skills, feel a sense of community, learn respect for themselves, their teammates and coaches, and understand the importance of becoming a responsible and reliable team member.”
Woodward said with the help of her all-volunteer team, she has collected hundreds of pairs of cleats in just the 12 months of operation. Now, they hope to collect even more cleats with the drop-off site at Momentum Training Center, a facility geared toward soccer players as young as 2 years old.
“We are dedicated to sharing our love of soccer with athletes of all ages and want to help everyone to get to experience the beautiful game,” said Lynnie Diede, who owns the facility. “A partnership with Legacy Laces was a no brainer as we share the same philosophies and goals.”
Wood described the partnership with the San Marcos-based facility as a perfect match. “Momentum trains young soccer superstars that are outgrowing cleats at a rapid clip,” she said. “Now, these families have a convenient way to pass on their gently used cleats to help kids in need who share their love of soccer.”
With the help of organizations like Momentum Training Center and others, Wood said Legacy Laces has been able to distribute the donated cleats to children throughout San Diego County. The positive feedback from the community, especially the young recipients, is overwhelming, Wood said.
“When we distributed cleats and other gear to the StarPal Strikers soccer team in City Heights, one of their players exclaimed, ‘Now we are going to win first place for sure!’” Wood said. “There have been so many memorable moments resulting from our work in the community.”
Other than donating cleats, Wood said the public can support Legacy Laces financially. The nonprofit is currently selling tickets to the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines where it will receive a portion of the sales.
Wood, who said some of her best childhood memories were on the field, said she hopes her growing charity will help as many young athletes as possible.
“Our vision is to ensure that today’s youth are equipped for sports so that tomorrow’s adults are equipped for life,” she said. “Therefore, we want to help as many children as possible become equipped for team sports so they can benefit from all the positive things athletics has to offer.”
For more information about Legacy Laces, go to legacylaces.com.
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at email@example.com.