By Jacob Born | September 11, 2021

All throughout the country, ECNL clubs are beginning their season and jumpstarting their chase for a National Championship. Among the hundreds of clubs, there are a few who began their season with service, giving back to their community before hitting the pitch. 

One of those clubs kicking off their season with service is Alabama FC, who found opportunities to make this season about more than soccer.  

Alabama FC began their campaign with the club’s annual Alabama FC Serves Day, a day where every member of the club gives back to the Birmingham community through service, donations and drives. Executive Director Andrew Brower first brought Alabama FC Serves Day to life in 2012, where he envisioned an annual day of service to draw his club closer together and to build a culture where the organization can become a footprint in the community. It was a chance to be more than just a soccer club. 

“I just thought we were in our own world, that everybody was in sort of their own orbits,” Brower said. “The Alabama FC Serves Day was a way to unify people and unify our club.” 

In that first year, Brower estimated that 500 to 600 Alabama FC athletes participated in the event. But every year since, it’s grown and included more and more people. Alabama FC Serves Day 2021 was held in August, and Brower estimates more than 1,500 players, ranging from U9 to U19 teams on both the boys and girls side, donated their time and efforts toward service, which impacted a wide range of organizations in the Birmingham region and beyond. 

“This year for Alabama FC Serves Day, we let each team choose their own projects,” Brower said. “Because of that, there were probably 30 different organizations or people who were served by the projects this year. We had all of our teams involved, including the ECNL U13 to U19 teams and ECNL Regional League teams as well.” 

Each year, and with each organization, Brower sees how meaningful it is to have his club go out into the community and donate their time for others. 

“It’s all very positive,” Brower said. “We still get people calling and thanking us during the year, months after Serves Day, just showing their gratitude. But we’re not doing it to get a pat on the back or accolades or those types of things. We do it because we want to teach our kids to serve. Service unites people, being able to help others unites people, and teaching our kids those skills is very important.” 

Service through unity is Brower’s ultimate goal. Unity not only for his club but also uniting his club with the community. Ensuring that Alabama FC has a footprint in the Birmingham community and Alabama as a whole is something he’s been working toward since he started the initiative in 2012. 

“We have a position of influence, as the only ECNL team in Alabama and as a leader of soccer in our state,” Brower said. “I think it’s important that we take ownership and do things that are bigger than soccer. I think it’s important that we help our kids to serve, and understand what serving is. Days like these, I think it gives you a better appreciation and teaches our kids through service the values of appreciation so that we can impact others.”

The timing of the Alabama FC Serves Day is no coincidence either. Brower specifically chose August as the month for the day of service as a way to bring the entire club and community together and to kick off the new season on the right foot. 

“It’s great for our teams,” Brower said. “It’s a great teambuilding initiative at the beginning of the year, so that’s why we set the date that we do. We do it because it’s the start of our season. What better way to start your season than by doing something for other people?” 

Throughout the organization, the Alabama FC Serves Day has been a success. The day serves its purpose, uniting the teams together and bringing the club together as one, while also creating a positive impact in their immediate community. 

“The kids really respond well to serving, especially when you scope it,” Brower said. “Telling them this is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing it. There’s a certain level of gratitude from helping and I think they’re better for it. When the kids’ hearts are shifted towards service, I think they respond better to things, not just in soccer but in school or with their parents or whatever it may be. And I think the overwhelming consensus is that they come back with a great sense of appreciation for how good they have their life.”

Ultimately though, it all comes back to Alabama FC’s mission statement, to empower, enrich and excel. In the years since Brower started Alabama FC Serves Day, he’s seen each of those qualities exemplified on and off the field. He’s seen his goal accomplished year over year, and he’s determined to continue it for the years to come. 

“The most important thing we can do is provide a positive framework for our kids to grow, thrive and develop to be the best they can be,” Brower said. “Little things like this help to achieve that goal. By serving others, we are able to empower other people. We provide our kids enrichment in what we’re doing with these projects, and it gives them an opportunity to excel to get in the right place. This is not the end-all, be-all, but it’s a stepping stone to be better people.”