Head Men’s Soccer Coach Thiago Pinto ’05, ’07, wants to help provide mentors, through soccer, for more kids in South Bend. He illustrates the value of mentoring through the story of two star soccer athletes. The first was one of the best soccer players in South Bend, but barely graduated from high school and had few options afterward. The second was also a very good player, but had a high GPA and many options to continue his studies and soccer career after high school. The major difference between the two? The player who succeeded had a mentor.

Pinto has a vision to develop an urban soccer ministry that provides the opportunity for Bethel players to form ongoing relationships with South Bend kids. He has a heart, particularly, for elementary kids, especially as South Bend School Corporation has been very supportive and welcoming for the idea of having soccer programming for K-5th grade.

“I have taken teams on mission trips overseas, but I can use them to bring hope and bring the Gospel in South Bend … we can have an ongoing ministry [here],” Pinto says.

The idea is to have three main events per year for both players and coaches, Pinto explains. So far this year, Bethel has held a spring soccer clinic, a summer camp and a fall soccer clinic, which just happened in August at TCU Field in South Bend. About 130 kids attended this last event. All of these games are held at no cost to the players and families.

“This event comes out of a vision to see transformation in South Bend, using soccer as a venue for that,” Pinto says.

He is also looking for ways his players can be involved in after-school programs, recognizing the value of mentors in young players’ lives. He hopes to partner with local ministries such as the Kroc Center/Salvation Army and Transformation Ministries, as well as local school systems, to get this initiative off the ground.

“We provide our [Bethel] team with mentors – they experience being mentored so they will know how to mentor others,” Pinto says.

He explains that one of the values of Bethel Soccer is to develop servant leaders. They do this by providing students with experiences that bring them out of their comfort zone and give them the time and space to see that the game can influence lives.

“You don’t just share a message. You become a message – a living testimony in peoples’ lives.”


Sophomore Alexander Romo is pictured with a player from the Jr. Irish Soccer Club at this fall’s outreach event.
Two players who recently graduated from Bethel’s program — Jake Baylis ’18 (left) and Finn Luben ’19 (right) — are influencing the next generation of young people as assistant soccer coaches at Adams High School in South Bend, alongside Head Coach Cristian Mihut, ’97 Ph.D., who also serves as associate professor of philosophy at Bethel.