I participated in the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy in 2014. God rocked my world that summer and I immediately knew this is where the Lord was calling me into ministry. In 2016, I moved to West Chicago to join the Eagles residency program. That year launched me into sports ministry head on and full throttle forward. I had found a place where Jesus and soccer met. I During the year, I coach our U19 girls team, which some of the girls I’ve been with for the last four seasons now! And during the summer, I am a part of the Summer Academy staff. I found God in college soccer and have seen the impact He has made on my life during that time and I just love all our college players that participate each summer. What a joy to walk in faith with them. I have seen the value in building relationships and discipleship for His Kingdom. You can also find me snapping photos and capturing all the fun and sweet Eagles memories along the way.
STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Joey Waltz
I grew up in VA, where playing soccer was a big part of life. I came to Chicago in 2011 when my college coach suggested the Eagles Summer Academy. As a result of my initial experience, I wanted to know God in a deeper way. Through a second (veteran) Summer Academy (2013), I became even more confident in the methodology of sports ministry. After graduating and completing a one-year term with AmeriCorps VISTA, I headed back to Chicago for graduate school and a coaching stint with the Moody Bible Institute men’s soccer team. At the end of a very full season of theological training and coaching, the door opened for me to return to the Eagles, where my current duties include coaching the U13 boys and graphic design. I believe God has me right where He wants me.
I came to Eagles through the volunteer on-ramp. I had been coaching youth soccer camps for another organization and had seen the impact a coach can have on kids. After meeting Cody on the field, he showed me just how much more of an impact a coach can have. After training under Cody the last few years, I have been launched into a new neighborhood. Through all the pains of moving into a new place and making new friendships with the people around us, we have seen a lot of growth. Right now, we have an average of 15 kids showing up to our neighborhood Micro twice a week and several of them play on our travel teams. Waiting for God's timing can be slow and full of impatience. But it is always worth it in the end. I could not have done any of this without Him.
I first learned about the the Eagles through our branch in Charlotte. I went on youth tours with the Charlotte eagles from 2010-2013. On those trips, I fell in love with sports ministry and felt a call on my life to one day make it my job. In 2014, I traveled up to Chicago to do the Summer Academy, and to my surprise found myself enjoying coaching and running soccer camps. I returned to the Academy the next 3 years and committed to working with the Chicago Eagles as camp director. I moved to Chicago into one of our neighborhoods in 2017 and got married to Naomi at the end of 2018. I currently coach a U15 boys team and serve as a camp director during the summer.
Jean is originally from Brazil, and he met Tasha, from Indiana, in a missions and discipleship training program in 1999. In the past 20 years, God has taken them all over the world to share the Good News, often through sports ministry. They first heard of the Chicago Eagles while serving with an MAI-affiliated soccer ministry in Japan for 3 years. In 2013, Jean went on his first Summer Academy trip to Brazil. Through that experience, God clearly led the De Souza family to join the Chicago Eagles long term, joining staff in January 2015. Jean coaches the U11 boys team and is in his second year as Summer Academy Tour Director. Tasha homeschools their four children, Eva (13), Ian (11), Lucca (7) and Elias (5), and she helps out wherever she can, including coordinating team meals for the Summer Academy. They love the family-like atmosphere of the Eagles and enjoy getting to know the families of the youth players.
Jeff grew up in Wheaton, IL, attended Taylor Univ. and graduated from North Central College in Naperville, IL. He taught elementary physical education for 10 years before attending Ravenscrest Chalet Bible School in Estes Park, CO, one of the many Torchbearers Centers worldwide. He then spent 8 years running a basketball ministry through the Torchbearer Center in Holsbybrunn, Sweden called Fackelbararna. Jeff met and married Margreet while in Sweden and their oldest son was born in Sweden. Margreet was born and grew up in IJmuiden, The Netherlands, a coastal town just west of Amsterdam. She worked in the sales department of one of the largest steel companies in Europe before heading to Bible School in Sweden. While in Sweden, they hosted six different Eagles soccer teams from both the Charlotte and Chicago offices. Since moving to the USA (2002) the Duseks have been working with the Chicago Eagles soccer ministry. Jeff works mostly with the camps and Golf Outing, while Margreet has handled camp registration and general office work through 2018. The Duseks have two boys, Wesley and Luuk and reside in Wheaton, IL.
👊🏼⚽️🦅 #chicagoeaglessoccer #maisoccer #morethanagame
“I first came to the Eagles for the Summer Academy back in 2016 after hearing about it from my college coach, but little did I know how life changing that summer would be. I loved everything about that summer, and it left me wanting more. I decided to come back the next year for an internship and that started to show me even more what the ministry looked like and how I could fit into it. When I first came to the Eagles, as much as I loved it, I never even imagined moving up here and what that would be like. But God was already starting to work in me. I looked into other opportunities for after graduation, and even into playing soccer further, but I felt such a strong calling from the Lord that I couldn't help but follow. So here I am! He has led me here and I couldn't be more excited for all that's to come with our teams, communities, the people I get to work with, and the people I get to serve.” ~Coach Connor
“Ever since high school, I have been a part of MAI by going on there various trips. I started with 2 youth tours, a trip to Germany, and trip to the Olympics in Rio, Brazil with the Charlotte Eagles. Then I was introduced to the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy. After doing one summer of that, I was hooked and I knew I wanted to do residency. So I did Summer Academy the next summer and it reinsured my desire to do residency. The ability to show Gods love and the community of MAI is something I have never experienced anywhere else. We all are truly a family. After just one trip with any of the MAI branches, you are apart of a nationwide family forever.” ~Coach Josh
“Micro League was a blast this fall. We had an average of 50 players every session, which made it our most successful Micro League yet. Many of our neighborhood kids came out to kick around with each other, but we also had some fresh new faces who experienced and interacted with the Chicago Eagles for the first time. Each week, the kids learned about what it means to be an Eagles soccer player. Eagles… are committed, are family, strive for excellence, want to grow, and have joy. And what a joy it was to watch these kids develop their soccer skills and learn a different Bible theme each week. Every Micro League season ends with a fun tournament. We had about 130 players and their families come out for the tournament. There were a lot of kids from the neighborhood, but we also invited a few outside teams to come play too. To end the tournament, Renewal Church provided food for all the players and families, which included delicious tacos and hotdogs. They love the Chicago Eagles ministry and vision for the community and youth soccer players. Micro League is a huge highlight of the year for our younger players. Parents already wanted to sign their kids up for our Spring Micro League. We cannot wait to start up again this spring!” ~Micro Director Owen
“This has been a great season for the u14 boys! As a team our previous best season record was 2-6, I am happy to say we are currently 4-1-1! Best season yet! The success of this season is all a result of the boys hard work. They have consistently come to and worked hard at every practice. I am very proud of the boys and have seen them grow on and off the filed. I am excited to finish the season strong and am looking forward to the winter season.” ~Coach Mallard
“We are in our third year of the Chicago Eagles high school girls team, a team community that is richer each year as we see genuine care for each other expressing itself in action. We come from 7 different towns, 7 different schools, and 6 different nationalities. Hearing players say "How was your day?" or "Let's pray for E" is really the culture of our team.
My HIGHLIGHT of the season so far, was at bible study reading Ephesians 2. Paul writes, "For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us."
In a day and age when divides speak loudly, our team is speaking a different message. Yes, soccer unites us, but even more does God's Holy Spirit. We must speak and act louder than the world's message, because Christ paid a big price to give us peace. This was the message around my dinner table heard with all-ears by players who are embracing the culture Christ has given us. Please pray for our team as we learn about the Lord and the personal relationship He wants with each of us.” ~Coach Jen
“This team has become one sweet família!! The fourteen girls on our roster (& a new fantastic assistant coach) are developing more than just soccer skills this season, and it is one of the most beautiful things to watch!! We are seeing these girls taking leadership in practices, asking to pray before the game, after the game, and even at halftime, and developing a togetherness that causes them to care for each other on and off the field. We hear meaningful encouragement being spoken amongst them, we saw two girls, who were once rivals, asking to be partners in practice, and we saw the whole team celebrating their teammate for her birthday. Their contagious joy and spontaneity keeps us on our toes and has been a source of many laughs!! We’ve seen big wins in their character, and wins on the field with their footwork, passing, teamwork, and even some stellar upper 90s and ninja like goalie saves! Continue to pray for the love of Christ to transform each individual heart and wisdom for us coaches in how to beat coach these young girls!”
This fall season has been busy but fun, as always. Twenty to twenty-two boys have been showing up to our practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays to kick the ball for two hours. Even though our official roster is limited to sixteen players, the boys who are eagerly waiting for a spot on the team aren’t stopped from participating. They have been consistently coming to every single practice. One player even comes along to our games fully dressed to cheer on the team from the bench during games. We coaches are very thankful that we’ve created a family atmosphere so that many boys feel comfortable and a part of the team. Our overflowing numbers will allow us to create a second team for this age group in the winter.
Congrats Phil on your National Student Athlete Player of the Week award!! #CESA18 #morethanagame
Click on the photo to read more about Phil’s award.
Congrats to our Summer Academy Alumni Alex Segura on his Player of the Week honor! #CESA18 #morethanagame [[Click on image to read about his POTW honor]]
This season the U13 boys have grown in unity. The focus of the team has been growing as family. Family for the U13 team means that when they take a water break, they go together and come back together, when they do fitness, it's together, when they win or lose, they are together. The team is a diverse group of boys. The diversity of team is in ethnicity, personalty and soccer ability: yet those differences do not divide but make the unity more significant.
The U13s are coached by a Juan, Jake, Bob, and Mallard, here's Coach Mallard's highlights for the fall.
Why did you start coaching: I enjoy soccer and get to hang out with kids.
What are the strengths of team: Unity.
What is the spiritual emphasis for season: Love one another because we are family.
What has been a cool story/moment: My team won their first game in two seasons.
Team: Lady Eagles U16
Who: Nicole Medeiros
Why: As a coach I think it is important to develop these kids not only as players, but as people as well. I have a responsibility as their coach to allow them the opportunity to get to know the game of soccer and hopefully have an experience that makes them want to continue in the sport. It should be a place for them to learn different skills, have fun, and see the importance of a team atmosphere. It has been said that a coach can have a huge impact on a child’s life because outside of parents coaches/teachers spend the most time with them. I want to be a positive impact on the kids who play for me and show them who Jesus Christ is through how I live my life and how I act. I want them to feel safe and cared for as individuals but also to know that they can have a personal relationship with a God who loves them and created them to be in community with Him.
Who: Lauren Cleope
Why: The world's greatest sport. The beautiful game. I had known for a very long time that I could never fully give up soccer. My playing career shifted to a coaching career. Some of the most influential people in my life have been coaches. They impact of my coaches throughout my life have shaped me to who I am today. But not only my coaches, but Jesus. He took something so competitive and fun and made a platform for me. Not just to perform and play competitively or even coach, but to use to give Him the glory each day. I coach because I have been given a gift. I get to train girls in the sport of soccer and watch them develop as players, but also, I get to do life with them. I get to walk along side of them in the different seasons of life. I want my girls to grow in soccer but also in their character and in their walk with Jesus. If I can be even the slightest example for that, then it's all worth it. A team is family. Everyone wants to belong and feel cared for. This is what I want for my U16 girls. A family they can come to with whatever they are going through and we can all deal with it together. And to think that we became family because we all like to kick around a soccer ball. Now what could be better?
Strengths of Team: Perseverance, coachability, and respect for each other
Spiritual emphasis for season: Giving Glory to God & exploring some core topics that relate to sport and real life (identity, motivation, competition)
Why should you apply for CESA 18? Don't just take our word for it, hear Connor and Regina's why!
CONNOR is a senior goalkeeper at John Brown University from Colorado and has participated in two previous Summer Academies. He hopes to be involved in Sports Ministry post graduation.
What was the most helpful thing you experienced during Eagles? The SMT (Sports Ministry Training) sessions. They have really showed me how to truly use soccer as ministry as a coach or player. Playing for Christ and being able to glorify him through this game has become incredibly important to me, whether in the summer or on my college team. The SMT sessions have taught me how to do this every time I play while dealing with the ups and downs that come with soccer
What is a post Academy challenge? For me, is not being around other Eagles throughout the school year. I would love to have someone or people around to continue to discuss these things with and hold each other accountable. I find often that I just really want to talk about the summer, but the people around me don't exactly understand because they don't have the same experiences.
What was your favorite part of your Academy experience? The international tour is definitely my favorite part of the summer. I would do tour for the whole summer if that was a possibility. I would absolutely recommend doing the summer academy to anyone.
Why should you come to the Academy? As cheesy as it may sound, it really was very life-changing. The academy is such an incredible environment for growth and learning that it's hard to not feel some sort of change for the rest of your life.
REGINA is a senior defender at Mount Vernon Nazarene University from Cleveland, OH. She has participated in the Summer Academy in 2015 and 2017.
What was the most helpful thing you experienced during Eagles? I've found the practiced spiritual disciplines incredibly helpful. One of the most impactful SMT sessions was in Moody. We were asked if we were comfortable with our prayer life, and I realized I wasn't; I'm still not. But it encouraged me to seek after the Lord even more through prayer.
What is your favorite part of Academy? And why should you come to the Academy? My favorite part of the academy was the community. There is a wholeness and a homeliness at Eagles that is unmatched, and I would definitely recommend the Academy because its a place of growth and renewal in the Lord.