GREENSBORO, N.C. — Sixteen-year-old Genesis Mark has been playing soccer for nine years.

“I like being creative and scoring goals,” she said with a laugh. “And using my speed because I’m pretty fast, so I like to go past people with my speed and score a little bit of goals.”


What You Need to Know

It doesn't cost Eagles Royal Football Club players anything to play in tournaments

Uniforms are one of the few things players need to pay for

Genesis Mark has been playing with EFRC since its inception in 2019

The team also spends time volunteering in the community


She’s a forward for the Eagles Royal Football Club, a travel soccer team in Greensboro.

“I like how we’re friends because I know there can be cliquey-ness amongst a team,” Mark said. “But I don’t really see that, to be honest.”

You can see that chemistry during practice. After missing one or two shots and getting caught by her sister on the back line a time or two, Mark broke through the defense with a couple of goals — and she let them know.

“Didn’t catch me that time,” she said as she grinned at her sister.

The Eagles are a little different from most travel teams. The only thing the players have to pay for is their uniform and occasional travel costs.

“My coach doesn’t have to worry about putting people in the game if he doesn’t want to because nobody’s paying. So, it’s like the best players out there,” Mark said. “It makes for a better team outcome in games and stuff. Makes sure we have the hardest-working people on the field.”

And it goes beyond just the pitch. On any given weekend, you might see the team out volunteering. Saturday, they dropped by a local church to help out the Guilford Urban Farming Initiative.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said, holding a handful of soil. “When I get ‘big and famous,’ I want to open some homeless shelters in Greensboro.”

Ivor Buffong helped start the team back in 2019. He realized that volunteering can be both a connector and a teacher.

“We just want to make sure that all of our players understand the holistic view that we take toward what we do with our program,” Buffong said. “And we want to make sure they know the value behind serving, which is why it is so important to us.”

He’s not only a coach of sport, but a coach of life. Plus, by taking money out of the equation, Buffong has helped clear economic barriers some families face with sports.

“(We are) giving a place for those kids who before had been, in essence, locked out because they just could not afford to pay for it even though their skill level would allow them to,” he said.

The idea has paid off. Players like Mark don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to soccer, except maybe what they might do at the next level, whether it’s sports or something else.

“Play D1 in college, that’s what I’m working on,” she said. “I mean, I don’t want to play professionally because I want to be a lawyer.”

And right now, with the Eagles, she’s well on her way.