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My Reason Why: Hugh Roberts

My Reason Why: Hugh Roberts

Hugh Roberts
Hugh Roberts

My father is Jamaican, and he used to play soccer at NC State. So I had a ball as soon as I was born. I was essentially a ball boy for his team, running around the tracks with him. I was present when He was training. Always by his side. But I also enjoyed playing basketball.

I was born in Queens, New York. My mother’s side of the family is from Queens, and basketball is popular up there. So I’ve spent my entire life playing basketball. It got to the point where I went to high school for ball rather than soccer.

Hugh Roberts
Hugh (24) with his High School basketball team

My senior year, I made the decision to focus on soccer rather than ball. Being six-four and playing ball is a little different than being six-four playing soccer. But I also wanted to forge my own path and pursue my own interests. Everyone, especially in our community, is pretty much sticking with basketball and football, I wanted to do something different.

I feel like I had a good chance to forge my own path, and I had a lot of support doing so. So, for me, it all started with Pops. I definitely kept the groove and motivation going, and as time passed, I grew older and played more, I made the decision to stick with soccer. And, in the end, I believe it was the best decision for me.

Hugh Roberts
Hugh in College at George Mason University

I Do This For The Culture…

To be honest, I must have had a childhood dream or something that inspired me to become a professional and perform on the biggest stage. I have always been the ultimate competitor. So, while participating in these sports, I always wanted to compete and be the best. I never thought I’d be in the corporate world; I always thought I’d pursue my dreams in ball or soccer.

When the opportunity came, I honestly had no idea what the USL was; I wasn’t drafted or anything. But I knew I wanted to go pro more so to impact and help my community while also shining a light on what I’m doing. It wasn’t necessarily for the check, I play second division soccer.

I also wanted to prove to people that what we’re doing is significant. It doesn’t have to be the same thing that we’re used to like Basketball, football, and other sports popular in our community. What I’m doing is also significant. I want to be able to pass the knowledge I gained on to the next generation.

We have a bunch of us (Black people) who participate in this sport. It has the potential to be as swaggy as football and basketball. You can make it however you want, but it’s okay to branch out and incorporate new ideas into our culture. That was one of the primary reasons I wanted to go pro.

Hugh Roberts
Hugh Roberts at Monterrey Bay FC

A 9-5 Isn’t For Me

I started thinking about this around 2016, 17, halfway through my career, when I retire, I don’t want to go into the corporate world and work a nine to five. I want to keep doing what I’m doing now in sports, but dictate my own realm and be my own boss.

That’s how Backyard Footy began: I was watching ESPN, listening to these analysts talk about every other sport in the world besides soccer all year long. The World Cup could be underway, but no one is talking about it. It made me think, how can I do something cheap and easy to put soccer on the map here?

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Mariah Lee in her Adelaide United kit

So that’s how Backyard Footy got its start, as a podcast but also with an eye toward what I wanted to do after my career. As I progressed through my career, I met different videographers and creatives and I was able to show more behind-the-scenes action around the sport with higher-quality videos and visuals.

But, in the end, I want Backyard Footy to be what I do after I finish my career. Backyard Footy and my foundation Footy’s Got You, which is currently partnering with nonprofits in Charlotte, North Carolina and Salinas, California. I’d like to be able to use my platform to help communities in need.

I’m on a mission to help the next generation of kids, particularly minority kids, succeed. I want to create a less difficult path than what I had to take. It’ll never be easy, but it’ll be a lot easier than what I went through.

This story is a part of the “My Reason Why” series in partnership with United Black Players. You can view other entries in the series HERE


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