Soccer Without Borders (SWB) is excited to announce Bruno Contreras as Director of Soccer Without Borders Boston. Over the past four years, Bruno has been an integral part of Soccer Without Borders growth. Moving to the United States in 2016 and joining SWB right away, Bruno took over Monitoring & Evaluation, building new database systems and creating a culture of data-driven programming. Prior to SWB, Bruno worked extensively in youth programming in Mexico City, including founding BarceRoma, a soccer program for underserved and indigenous youth. Bruno holds a bachelor's degree in Geography from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and has completed Coaches Across Continents' social impact coach training certification. His experience and steadfast dedication to SWB's mission now help poise SWB Boston for continued success and growth through what has been a trying time for many participants and families.
As we welcome Bruno as Director, he shared his reflections on what brought him to this point and which aspects of the Boston Director role excite him the most:
Can you describe your personal connection with soccer and SWB's mission?
"I was born and raised in Mexico City where the culture of soccer is strong. My best childhood memories are playing soccer in the street with my friends. As a kid, I collected all my favorite players' cards, made hand-drawn logos of the national teams and put them on bedroom walls. I also kept a notebook with all the World Cup qualifiers statistics by region. Soccer afforded me the opportunity to not only make friends, but also to learn about other parts of the world. Soccer is a vital cultural component in many parts of the world, and like other sports, I believe it serves a unique role in uniting people across societal divides."
What interested you about this particular role?
"My dream since joining SWB during my first year living in the US was to eventually serve as Director of SWB Mexico, with “my people,” where I am familiar with the culture and language. Through my experiences interacting with program participants in the US I have come to realize that they too are my people. Since I was no longer coaching, I find myself always wishing that I had more time to dedicate to our Boston program participants. So, my biggest interest to apply for this role was to finally be 100% focused on them. This might be the biggest challenge of my life and I want to face it with humility and passion, knowing that I won’t be alone in this process. Having the support of the SWB community and two incredible human beings and coaches next to me like Ye-Htet and Caitlin, makes me feel ready for this challenge."
How do you feel that your time spent with SWB as a Coach and as Evaluation & Learning Manager has prepared you for this next step?
"My experience behind the scenes as an Impact Associate and then Evaluation and Learning Manager, has given me the opportunity to learn management and leadership skills, and the importance of tracking our results to make sure we are achieving our goals. Serving on the Collective Impact Team under Mary's leadership has provided me with a holistic view of the organization and an understanding of different areas and the unique characteristics of each individual program in the US and abroad. On the other hand, my experience as a coach of the middle school program, has given me the opportunity to work directly with our Boston youth participants. This is incredibly important, as I am a familiar face to our participants and their families."
Which of your past experiences outside of SWB have been most impactful for you to be a part of?
"Just five years ago, I was living in Mexico City. Every day, I walked by a park and saw kids who were part of the Otomí community playing soccer (Otomíes is an indigenuos group located in the central region of Mexico who have migrated to the capital to find better opportunities). Typically, kids of this community are seen selling candies and handcrafts in the streets to support their families. I started to play with Omar, Sergio, Luis, Yahir, Cesar, Guillermo, Javier every weekend, and eventually proposed to them that we create a soccer team. I will never forget the excitement on their faces. They started to invite more kids from the Otomí community to join us, and soon people in the neighborhood offered support in the form of uniforms and league fees. Weekend away games consisted of traveling by metro with 35 boys and girls to get to the field. I met their families. Families cooked tamales and ponche to celebrate the end of the year. A museum let us have a weekly Otomí embroidery workshop led by the mothers of the participants to get additional income and share their culture with the community. Around this time, my US visa request was approved and my wife and I had to move within a very short time period. I am so grateful for my experience with my first soccer team. They are the reason that I decided to fully commit to walk with youth through soccer. Through this work, I am constantly reminded of the power of soccer to create belonging and positive impact in the lives of young people."
What are you looking forward to most about being the new SWB Boston Director?
"There is a concept in geography called ‘non-place’ which means transitory places, where social action does not take place. Before immigrants got to this country, many were in transitory non-places such as roads, shelters, deserts, and airports. My goal as Director of Boston is to ensure that Boston and the SWB program serve as a clear transition from such non-places to a community that feels like home. I want the program to be a place where they can develop meaningful experiences, positive relationships, a sense of belonging, and reach their full potential as soccer players and human beings. I’m looking forward to sharing life experiences with our youth and their families, and to growing our reach to other immigrant communities in Greater Boston and beyond."
Learn more about Soccer Without Borders' work in Greater Boston here.