From his roots in Indianapolis, Ray Gaddis worked his way to the highest level of soccer in the United States. After nine seasons with the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, Gaddis has returned home with inspired goals. One such goal is to serve his community in numerous capacities.
As an executive board member of Black Players for Change (BPC), an exciting opportunity opened up for Ray to have a direct impact on his home community. BPC is composed of current and former professional soccer players, and targets improving Black equity at all levels of the beautiful game. In collaboration with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Adidas, Indy Parks & Recreation, and Musco Lighting, BPC and the Black Women’s Player Collective (BWPC) are well into the process of constructing 12 mini-pitches in Black communities around the country. Each community that was chosen has a meaningful connection to at least one member of BPC or WBPC.
With projects already completed in New York and California, the Hoosier state is now home to the newest mini-pitch built by the coalitions. Within Oscar Charleston Park on the near northeast side of Indianapolis lies a beautifully designed court with numerous ties to the rich history of the city. Lining the walls of the court are murals painted by local artists Ashley Nora, Israel Solomon, Rebecca Robinson, and Matthew Cooper. The murals feature prominent figures such as Madam C.J. Walker, Oscar Charleston, Briana Scurry, and Gaddis.
“We chose Oscar Charleston Park as the location because number one we wanted to pay homage, but it is also addressing an area that needed revitalization,” said Gaddis.
“But also just working in conjunction with a community that I’m familiar with. The best way to champion or empower people is to let them know that you are closely associated with the area.”
While the mini-pitch will certainly play host to exciting play, the space has a higher meaning for Gaddis as well.
“The mini-pitch is centered around soccer, but soccer is just the vehicle,” Gaddis added. “My main goal is to continue to champion and empower this community. This is a safe haven, this is an art exhibit, this is a social safe place. It’s much more than just a mini-pitch.”
Indiana Futsal Director Justin Becht believes the space also provides new opportunities for futsal play and education.
“This was an amazing opportunity to bring this beautiful play space to Indianapolis. This is an area that is hungry for more and more soccer and futsal activity,” said Becht.
“It’s a privilege to collaborate with organizations like US Soccer Foundation, Safe Places to Play, BPC, and BWPC, and to continue our relationship with Indy Parks. It's especially rewarding to work with Ray and to see the rewards of following his dreams.”
The mini-pitch is already playing host to plenty of drop-in action. With the potential to host area club practices, tournaments, and other strategic programming, the space will serve the community for years to come.
Gaddis’s career in the circle city began, as most careers do, on local recreational sides. After a youth career with Indy Burn (now United Soccer Alliance of Indiana), Gaddis committed to West Virginia University. With the Mountaineers, Ray earned All-American recognition, All-Big East honors, and was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List twice.
After being selected in the second round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by the Philadelphia Union, Gaddis went on to have a highly successful professional career as a defender. A leader on and off the field for the side, Gaddis became the first player in Union history to make 200 starts for the club.