ZUNI, NM (Nov. 17, 2022) — The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project reported today that 130 Zuni children participated in its soccer and flag football leagues between early August and late October. These dynamic, popular leagues are made possible with support from the Nike N7 Fund, New Mexico Department of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

For more than 13 years, the team at the nonprofit youth organization has firmly believed that youth sports have the power to transform the lives of Zuni youth and bring the community even closer together. The ZYEP recipe: Collaborate with community coaches and parents, foster a challenging environment that also is highly supportive, and empower each child while ensuring a sense of fun.

That simple recipe is also a winning one. ZYEP’s Youth Sport program has steadily grown since the initial soccer camp in 2009, with the youth project now connecting with more than 500 local youth every year.

According to Josh Kudrna, physical activity coordinator, ZYEP welcomed 45 players to its August-September soccer league and 85 players to its September-October flag football league. Youth participants ranged in age 4 to 14.

“This season was as smooth as could be, even in the face of wild weather and mosquitoes,” Kudrna said. “Our young players always had high spirits, and the coaches saw significant improvement in their performances as time went on. Family and friends came out for both soccer and flag football to cheer on their players, and they helped bring back the feel of community that we were missing during the pandemic years.”

Mike Vicenti’s child played with Team Broncos during the 2022 flag football league. He said ZYEP’s Youth Sport program is important for two reasons.

“No. 1, taking the responsibility for time management, getting up on time for Sunday’s games and also getting to practice on time,” he explained. “And No. 2, having fun. This is very important. Having fun is the key.”

Vicente noted that fun was evident throughout the league, from the kids’ energy and excitement at practice and at 9 a.m. games, to multiple generations cheering on the sidelines for their young players. He said the environment gives them both confidence and courage.

“ZYEP flag football is the greatest thing these kids can have,” he said.

Armond Sandoval coached Team 49ers during the fall league. As a new coach, he said he enjoyed getting to know the kids and teach them new athletic skills.

“The season is a great way for kids to play and interact with other kids in the community,” he said. “The kids get to make new friends while having fun.”

“As a parent, having my child join flag football (on Team Green Bay Packers) for the first time has been a positive learning experience,” said parent C. Tsikewa. “He’s enjoyed going to practice and playing. He’s made great friends and continues to push himself further toward good grades. He mentioned joining next year, and we look forward to the opportunity. It was a great season!”

In addition to flag football and soccer, young people also are able to take advantage of a spring league in basketball that routinely draws more than 100 players. More importantly, they have access to mentorship through ZYEP’s staff and coaches, consistent camaraderie with teammates year after year, and this deep and abiding community spirit.

To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), and YouTube (/ZuniYouth).


Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.