When one of Ben Kopach’s teammates broke a soccer cleat the day before a game, it looked like the teammate was out of luck. He was unable to order a new pair of size 13 crampons in time to play.
But Kopach had a solution, thanks to its Community Problem Solvers group, Flagler County Sports SWAP, which stands for Students Wanting Athletic Participation. The group, which won first place in its division in the Florida Future Problem Solvers competition in April, collects donations of sports equipment, organizes them, displays them, and then distributes them to anyone in need. If families are able to donate their own oversized gear in exchange for lightly used gear they need, so much the better, but if not, the donated gear is donated.
When his teammate’s crampon broke, Kopach recalled that a pair of size 13 crampons had recently been donated to SWAP. He was able to make the connection and help his teammate to play in the match.
“When I put the crampon back on, it was a good feeling that he wouldn’t have to sit on the bench and not be able to play,” Kopach recalled in a Zoom interview with the Palm Coast Observer.
Kopach, a freshman at Matanzas High School, is joined in the group by some of his childhood friends: Jake Blumengarten and Tommy Sturman, both freshmen at Flagler Palm Coast High School; and Aiden White, an eighth grade student at Indian Trails Middle School. The FPS official who interviewed Kopach for the state competition told him it was the first group he remembered that included high school and college students.
SWAP’s trainer is Amy Kopach, Ben’s mother. She said the four boys had been playing sports for years and parents sometimes made arrangements to swap sports equipment, some of which was only used for one season before they got too big.
When they started SWAP, the boys took surveys and found it was a common struggle among families in Flagler County. They also had memories of other players from their own team.
“One time I was in the middle of a game and my teammate showed up and he didn’t have a glove,” Sturman recalls. “Then I remembered I had a spare glove in my bag, so I let him use it. “
Blumengarten recalled that a football player had to borrow a stud during a match. “It was really cool to see how some people who are unlucky can get support so that they can play the sport they want to play,” he said.
On January 21, SWAP opened a storefront at Shepherd of the Coast Lutheran Church, 101 Pine Lakes Parkway, where people could come and “buy” free material on Monday evenings. It was only open for about six weeks before it had to close due to the pandemic.
But at this time the boys were busy. Approximately $ 12,000 of equipment was donated and many city sports leagues participated. At the store, there were sometimes 10 families waiting for help with equipment.
White recalled a family that had just moved to town and had no equipment to play baseball. The kid left with an equipment bag, glove, bat, helmet, crampons – everything.
“They were very grateful,” White said.
SWAP will participate in the international competition in June, online. E-mail [email protected], or search for @flaglersportsswap on Facebook or Instagram.