The BRSC Member Spotlight Series recognizes outstanding members within our organization who help further the club’s mission to provide and promote excellence in soccer and physical fitness programming to people of all ages and abilities.
The first exceptional member of the Baton Rouge Soccer Club that we will highlight is Danielle Thomas. Danielle has served as a coach, manager, and director of the Gardere Youth Alliance program since 2012.
Originally from Kentucky, Danielle grew up playing soccer and was a member of her high school soccer team. Danielle played varsity center midfield and was the backup goalkeeper for her team. Danielle enjoys a successful freshman and sophomore seasons before an unfortunate knee injury shortened her junior year. Despite her best efforts, she was unable to recapture her previous level of play during her season as she finished out her soccer career. In college, Danielle focused on her studies. While earning her doctorate degree for sociology at LSU, she became involved with the Gardere Youth Alliance Program.
During her involvement, she aided Anna Alvarez and Ivan Quinones in starting the Gardere Youth Alliance (GYA) soccer program in 2015. Shortly after, the program formed a partnership with the Baton Rouge Soccer Club.
“Danielle is a missionary, she loves sports very much and took the challenge of being a part of this new adventure with us,” said Anna Alvarez. “For more than six years she has worked and established a good relationship with BRSC, helping many children/youths who have been involved with GYA.”
The mission of the Gardere Youth Alliance is to connect kids and families in the Gardere community to athletic opportunities and encourage the children to become their best selves on and off the field. It is a Christian organization founded by Darin Fontenette and Allison Fitchet around the time of hurricane Katrina. The program helped make peace across divisions between New Orleans evacuees and Baton Rouge residents of Gardere. The organization offers football and soccer programs currently but has also offered basketball, dance, and cheer in the past.
BRSC Recreational Director Coaching Stanley Johnson has worked with Danielle and countless other coaches in the recreational program to prepare for the season. “Danielle is an excellent example of the volunteer coaches who truly embody the mission statement of the Baton Rouge Soccer Club. Danielle works tirelessly to help provide children in the Baton Rouge community with the opportunity to participate in BRSC programs.”
During the season, BRSC Recreational Director Morgan Bellington always finds time to watch all of her recreational team’s play, but she always makes sure to check in on all of Danielle’s games. “Her level of dedication to both her players and the club is rivaled by few. We are very proud to have Danielle on our Recreational coaching staff.”
Danielle’s primary goal is to provide athletic opportunities to those that do not have the financial means, even taking the initiative in transporting the players out to practices and games. While she assists with coaching all the teams, her primary team is the girls’ team that she started in 2018. Danielle’s favorite thing about the work she does is opening-up doors socially and culturally for the children in the program and seeing the opportunities they are given. She also loves watching the kids grow not only as athletes but as people.
Her favorite memory of working for the program is an experience with the girls’ team last season. Her team was matched up to play against a team that they were very intimidated by; and unfortunately, they lost badly. She explained to them that the teams’ skill sets were even, but the intimidation level of the other team affected their overall performance. Later in the season, they had a rematch with the same team; and they triumphed.
Danielle recalled how special it felt to watch her team overcome this obstacle and grow from that experience. “I love watching my team’s confidence grow. Watching them improve and progress as players are really great to witness.” The soccer program provides children with opportunities, serving as a form of foundation in the children’s lives. Danielle’s future hope for her players is to see them build up the courage to try out for their high school teams and to attend college.
If you are interested in getting involved, the GYA program is in constant need of coaches to provide one on one instruction that Danielle may not always be able to give due to her busy schedule. In addition to volunteer opportunities, the Gardere Youth Alliance and BRSC accept donations in financial and equipment form (balls, shin guards, etc.) as well.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and to get involved with GYA.