We are spending the month of February joining with others in celebrating black players, coaches, administrators, and volunteers that play a critical role in the continued success of the thriving Maryland and DC soccer scene.
Justin Reid: Justin serves in various capacities and is an established leader in the Maryland and DC soccer community.
Chairman and CEO: Black Soccer Membership Association
President: Sandy Spring Soccer Club
Owner: Quick Feet Soccer for Kids
Commissioner: Maryland Developmental Soccer League
1. What excites you about Black History Month?
Personally, I celebrate Black History every day as I think about those who have led our community and have opened doors for me and my friends and family. Having said this, it is important to spend time reflecting on what Black History Month means and how the leaders before me have impacted millions of lives. We know the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Jackie Robinson and so many more pioneers in our community, so it is important to never forget what they all had to endure during their time and their fight for Civil Rights in the United States, that has made this country better for us to live in. The country still has a long way to go when addressing basic human rights, but for every heinous event like George Floyd, there is an African-American building wealth for his or her family/community by purchasing land, selling a business, or creating other assets. Prosperity isn’t always possible for minority populations in every country around the world, so we have to be appreciated of the fact that despite limitations, we can thrive in the United States because of the leaders who fought for us. What is happening in the present and what can happen in the future because of the past is what excites me about Black History Month. Knowing where our community was at one point, where we are now, and where we will be decades from now as we continue to make progress.
2. Tell us a little bit about your soccer journey/story?
I can never talk about my soccer journey/story without mentioning my late father Stephen Reid who passed away in 2020. He was born in Trinidad & Tobago and grew up playing soccer (football) in the streets of Port of Spain. He attended Fatima College where he played until graduation and used football to help him to balance his life. Education was always first to him as he finished among the top 3 on the island for his Common Entrance exam. I am not too familiar with the school system in T&T, but among a population of 700,000 at the time (now 1.3 million between both islands), I think that was a major accomplishment for him. He never played professionally because after he graduated he had to work to help my Grandmother, my Grandfather passed away when my Dad was four years old. From the time I was born, my dad instilled in my brother (who played soccer as well growing up and for the George Washington University) and I the importance of the game and what it could do for us in the long run. I liked and played other sports like Basketball and Baseball, still an avid sports fan to this day but I wasn’t 6’6’’ for basketball and I didn’t make much contact when I swung a bat after a 70-80 mph pitch, so I knew that neither of the sports would be in the works for me in the long term. So soccer became my primary sport by age 9.
I grew up in the D.C. region playing for several of the youth clubs in the area: MSI, Washington Stars, Fort Washington Raiders, Potomac Panthers, and Columbia Santos to name a handful. I really enjoyed playing for many of the coaches throughout my youth soccer journey who taught me a great deal about the game on and off the field. Coaches like Richie Burke, Lincoln Phillips, Myron Garnes, the late August Wooter, Keith Serrano, Brian Robertson, Eduardo Polon, and others were instrumental in not just soccer but in my life. All of them had/have a passion for the game like non-other and I credit all of them for the player that I became and the coach that I am today. I still stay in touch with most of them to this day. Their abilities to teach technical skills and discipline have had a major impact on my life to this day. Eduardo was my only non-youth soccer club coach, in fact he was my high school soccer coach at the Sandy Spring Friends School (SSFS) from 1996-2000. He was born in Canada like me, but from Argentine parents. He started coaching at SSFS in 1996 and he may have been no more than 25-26 years old at the time so he was really passionate about the sport and wanting us to succeed. He was also really tough on us, but I credit him for helping me learn how to be disciplined on and off the field. One quote from him that sticks with me to this day is, “Stop feeling sorry for yourselves because no one is going to feel sorry for you.”
In 1999 (at 17), I remember spending a year with the Maryland Olympic Development Program where I had the chance to experience soccer outside of the United States. I always laugh about this experience because I was scouted by the ODP coach in 1999 and didn’t have to go through tryouts. I was a defender and because a notable player in my 1982 age group from the area Oguchi Oneywu had made the regional team and moved onto the US youth national team, the coach must have been looking for any and all defenders in the state who could take his place. A big ask of course as Oneywu was irreplaceable. He would move onto to play for the US National Team, in World Cups, in Europe and beyond.
Playing with Columbia Santos it was my first time experiencing tournaments outside of DC, MD, and VA. Playing for Santos allowed me to play in various tournaments like the Tampa Sun Bowl, Dallas Cup, and other domestic tournaments. However, spending a week with the Maryland ODP team in Scotland really opened my mind to new horizons. I am a city guy so driving through the countryside and seeing green mountains for miles on miles made me realize that this world (and soccer world) was bigger than the little bubble that I lived in.
Following my ODP experience and after graduating from SSFS, I applied to the University of Delaware and got in. I had received offers to play at East Carolina University (when they had a men’s program) and the University of Pittsburgh but my parents (who lived in Maryland) said that if I attended either one of those schools they would probably only see me during the holidays. 😊 So I decided to attend the University of Delaware where a good friend of mine had already been enrolled. I played at UD from 2000-2003, despite not playing at all in 2000 which allowed me to keep my Redshirt status. I was never really a consistent starter at the University and our best season was 6 wins and 11 losses, my Redshirt Junior year. I didn’t have the best playing experience at the university but I met lifelong friends there. I had one more year of eligibility left to play in the Fall of 2004, but with only 6 credits remaining for my degree I decided to return back home to Maryland to focus on finishing my degree which I did.
After graduating, I went into the healthcare field but decided that this wasn’t going to be the path for me. I wanted to coach (full-time). The healthcare job that I had worked for had flexible hours and I could arrive by 6 am and leave out by 2 pm to allow me enough time to coach in the evenings. I re-connected with Myron upon my return to Maryland and he helped me to obtain an assistant coaching summer position at the Chesapeake Dragons, a club owned by Lincoln, who played in the Super Y League. During the summer in college, I would play for the club part-time but coaching in the club would be a new experience for me. That is where I had the chance to coach with Todd Haskins, a former US youth national team player and an amazing coach in the area. That summer I met really good players who are still professionals to this day like Jalen Robinson (D.C. United/Loudon United). He was 12 years old at the time.
After a summer coaching for the Dragons, I assisted Myron in Northern Virginia where we coached two teams in Herndon and Reston. This coaching experience helped me to find my niche (which was not with the older ages) and that was when I decided to launch QuickFeet Soccer for Kids in 2006. QuickFeet to this day only focuses on children ages 2-7 years old and we have been fortunate to grow it to serve 800 children annually with 15 different locations throughout the D.C., MD, and VA. I have since launched additional programs in the area like the D.C. Cup, an international tournament held the weekend of 4th of July, the Maryland Developmental Soccer League (MDSL) that caters to smaller clubs in Central Maryland, and a club that is affiliated with MSYSA just like the MDSL called the Sandy Spring Soccer Club (SSSC) that I launched in March of 2022. SSSC really means a lot to me because we practice and play our games at the Sandy Spring Friends School (SSFS) which is a campus that I call home. I went there from 2nd grade to 12th grade and the school really helped shape the person that I am today. We also had a pretty good soccer team at the school and I was fortunate to be part of several middle school and varsity championships. Education and soccer is what my parents instilled and I am just happy with how both have shaped me as a person.
3. In what ways has your soccer experience been impacted by being Black?
Honestly, it has been very positive as a coach and a player for the most part. Living and playing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area always allowed me to play on diverse teams. Most of the teams that I played for were coached by international coaches so I never faced any negative impacts on the youth soccer side when dealing with the coach. It wasn’t until I played at the University of Delaware that I realized that this sport isn’t diverse everywhere. For the first 3 years, I was the only Black player on the team. Did this possibly affect the negatives of my experience playing soccer at the university? Possibly. But for the most part, I didn’t have too many issues with my teammates.
4. What struggles or obstacles have you faced in your journey as a soccer player?
Playing youth soccer in the D.C. area I was always among the top 5 players on my team. It wasn’t until I arrived to Columbia Santos in 1998-1999 that I was humbled by the amount of talent that the team had. Prior to arriving they had won the Maryland State Cup in 1997 for the U-16 age group. They played against Potomac in the finals who had Oguchi Onyewu, Kyle Beckerman, and Alex Yi all went on to either play in college or professionally. Beckerman recently retired from MLS after a long and career, and Onyewu who I see from time to time in the area and as mentioned in my previous answers, played in multiple World Cups and had just a fantastic career. So for that Columbia Santos team to have won the State Cup was an incredible feat and one that I wish I had been part of if I had arrived to the team a year prior. So I would say fitting in that team on the field and having to adjust to the Right Back position was a bit of an obstacle. On other teams I had always played Center-mid or Striker, but Santos had players who were better than me in those positions so I’d play anywhere just to be on the field. At the University of Delaware as documented, it was the opposite struggle where fitting in off the field was more of the challenge.
5. What are your current and future aspirations in the soccer community?
You know, the D.C. Cup really gets me excited about what it can be with a bit more support from the D.C., MD, VA youth soccer community. I openly rant about the lack of support from clubs in the D.C., MD, VA area for the smaller clubs (by membership) when we are hosting tournaments and leagues. As for the D.C. Cup, it is located in a world class city that for many years was ranked among the top tourist destinations in the country so we saw an opportunity to launch a youth soccer tournament and host it during the 4th of July weekend. The idea of the Cup came about when we hosted the St. Leonard’s Boys School U-19 team from Barbados in the summer of 2019. The objective was to set up friendlies for them and I wanted to show them D.C. so I contacted the Embassy of Barbados where the team had the opportunity to meet the Ambassador of Barbados to the United States, The Honorable Noel Lynch. We sat down with him, had lunch, and they were fantastic hosts to the young men from the St. Leonard’s. The school is not well off financially and it is not located in the best part of Bridgetown so providing the opportunity for the students to travel to the U.S. meant a lot to me. The team played 3 matches during their stay that summer vs. Future Soccer Club, Doradus Football Club, and Takoma Park and Friends.
In 2021, we officially launched the D.C. Cup and were able to attract teams from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Jacksonville. In 2022, we saw more domestic teams participate, and so far this year we are off to the best start ever in terms of team registration as teams from Canada, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and more will be coming to the city this summer. We have also added the girl's side to the tournament. The tournament’s potential is what I am really excited about. There are many summer tournaments around the world that have had major impacts on the local economy/community and we believe that the D.C. Cup can do the same. We average about 30 teams per year and have the capacity to grow to 180 teams. We are ranked in GotSport and have attracted elite-level teams so we want to keep that standard up as our focus will remain on quality. So I would really like to see a full fledge tournament in D.C. that is able to rival other youth summer soccer tournaments. Our city is way too rich in tradition not to have an overly successful youth soccer tournament. So we are working hard to make it happen.
6. How do you think the soccer community can raise the bar in diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Where do I start? I think when you look at diversity, equity, and inclusion you really have to break soccer down by its levels from grassroots to professional. In my 20 years involved with the business side of soccer, I have been fortunate to work with grassroots programs as young as 18 months like QuickFeet Soccer for Kids up to the professional level where I worked as an agent representing USL and MLS players.
On the youth level, what I noticed is that anyone can launch a club and that is the easy part. But the cost to play competitive youth soccer for a parent is very expensive, yet I don’t always place the blame on the clubs because the cost to operate a club is really expensive. So access to Capital by investing in clubs that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion is one way to raise the bar in the soccer community. When you factor in the costs of coaching fees, leagues, tournaments, referees, uniforms, travel, and so many more expenses it is really a challenge for a small club to operate and to be sustainable. This expense is then passed on to the parents, and lower-income families are unable to afford to play in a $2000 - $ 2500-a-year club. Lower-income families come from all races, but in the Central Maryland area, it mostly seems to affect the Black and Hispanic communities.
On the college level, professional, and national team levels coaching and ownership are the biggest issues pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I did a study for the Black Soccer Membership Association 2 years ago laying out the number of Black Head Coaches at the Men’s NCAA Division 1 and 2 levels and of the 207 NCAA Division 1 Men’s teams there were only 12 and at the Division 2 level there were only 7. That is 6% and 3% respectively and does not equate to the 25% of Black male players who are playing at Division 1 and 2 levels. Professionally, it was even worse. The National Women’s Soccer League in its 10 years of existence has never had a Black Head Coach. In Major League Soccer, the data from 2021 shows that there were only 2 Black Head Coaches, and that number has remained the same despite the league having now grown to 29 teams. On the US National Team level (youth and senior), there is currently one youth national team coach who is Black and that is Michael Nsien who recently became the U-16 Boys coach. For many years prior, there weren’t any on the US National Team levels. Black players tend to be in abundance on the field, but when it comes to head coaching roles and ownership (there are 0 majority Black owners in MLS and NWSL) despite being qualified, we can’t get a seat at the table.
7. What do you do (if anything) to celebrate Black History Month?
I like to celebrate the leaders of the past who have made a major impact in the lives of our community. Many of our leaders had different approaches to ensuring that our community could excel whether they were more radical approaches like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, or whether they were more subtle in their approach (yet impactful) like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. People always ask me which approach was better Malcolm X’s or MLK’s and I always say both. Being loud and at times combative can get people to hear you out and that was Malcolm X. He focused on Black Liberation through Economics and building up the community and this approach has worked. Dr. King, on the other hand, focused more on coming together and living in peace and harmony. We have a long way to go with this approach, but you do see people of all races working together in various industries and that is something that we didn’t have during segregation. So my celebration entails where we have come as a people and the road still left to travel.
8. What are you doing personally to elevate the voice of Black players, coaches, and leaders in the community?
In 2018, I co-founded the Black Soccer Membership Association here in Maryland with the focus to enhance opportunities for administrators, players, coaches, and referees. We launched a podcast to promote Black soccer leaders in the community.
9. What advice do you have for other participants in the soccer community who are not Black, regarding Black History Month, equity and inclusion, and diversity in the sport of soccer?
Usually when I hear this question asked, the answer that I hear from others is usually a plea for communities to embrace the Black community. But my answer is a bit different and more direct. There are organizations that are allies for the Black soccer community and I would continue to encourage them to do what they are doing because they are making a difference. In addition, I don’t think that it is right to ask someone who has their own issues in their community to put important time and energy into another community especially if it is not their focal point. Nor do I think that someone who chooses not to focus on another community’s issues should be labeled.