She's a Kansas City cop using soccer to help kids realize their potential

Ann Murphy's day doesn't end when her shift as a KCPD officer is over. She heads from work to her second gig, as a coach with the youth program she helped bring to Kansas City.
Ann Murphy's day doesn't end when her shift as a KCPD officer is over. She heads from work to her second gig, as a coach with the youth program she helped bring to Kansas City. Courtesy photo

She works a 6 a.m. shift for the Kansas City Police Department. Then, after an eight-hour dose of homicide cases and juvenile crime, officer Ann Murphy gets off at 2 p.m. and makes her way home.

The average person with this sort of work schedule would probably take some time to relax, perhaps even catch a quick nap.

Not Murphy. She swaps her police uniform for a soccer uniform and heads over to Kessler Park in northeast Kansas City, transforming from Officer Murphy to Coach Murphy.

"The department supports what I do,” Murphy said. “The challenge would be time.”

Murphy, 33, is also a soccer coach for KC Youth R.I.S.E (Resilience, Influence, Support and Education), a non-profit organization that gives Kansas City youth opportunities to succeed in areas that they might not have otherwise due to their socioeconomic status.

KC's Youth R.I.S.E began in 2011, when Murphy was working the midnight shift for the east patrol division. She, along with a friend working at Frontier Middle School in the Kansas City Public School District, noticed that many kids had lost their sense of long-term goals.

Worse, the situations in which these kids were living were making them lose faith in their own potential.

Murphy and her friend both had soccer backgrounds — Murphy played at St. Louis University and Missouri Valley College — so they decided to use the sport as a vehicle to reach out to at-risk kids in Kansas City.

“I didn't know what I was getting into at the time,” Murphy said. “I was just thinking about the kids, and I met them, and these kids have so much natural talent that I was like, ‘Wow,’ because I'd never coached before back then.”

Earning her national "C" coaching license for soccer, Murphy signed up an initial team of eight players for an indoor league. Since then, KC's Youth R.I.S.E has grown to include more than 100 kids around the Metro.

But the ultimate goal of Youth R.I.S.E isn’t just to give kids something to do for an evening. It’s to teach them life lessons and change their lives in the long run.

For example, Murphy and the rest of the Youth R.I.S.E board of directors have access to each player’s grades in school. If a player’s GPA drops below 2.5, he is pulled from the team until his GPA exceeds 2.5 again.

Seven years into the operation, Murphy is now seeing young people she has coached graduate from high school and move on to college. In the last two years, Youth R.I.S.E has boasted a high school graduation rate of 100 percent — or more than 15 kids.

And each of those 15 has received scholarship money in either academics or athletics.

“We have one kid, his mom — single mother family — she makes under $10,000 for the entire family for the household, and he's going to Rockhurst University almost on a full ride to be a police officer,” Murphy explained. “So that's a big deal, he's going to be a sophomore."

In 2017, Murphy was awarded the Double Goal Coaching award, one of just 50 awards given out per year by the Positive Coaching Alliance. Traveling to California to receive the honor, Murphy was greeted by a two-minute video compilation of the kids she’s coached.

In the video, they talked about how much Youth R.I.S.E has meant to them.

“How important the program was to the kids, and them recognizing all of the work that I do to be with them and help them succeed, was humbling,” Murphy said.

At the end of another long, four-hour training session, from 4:30-8:30 p.m., Murphy returns home and sits down to begin her "homework": she’s studying for a doctoral degree in public policy and administration.

Then she'll grab a couple of hours' sleep and start all over again the next morning.

“As a police officer, you deal with shootings and homicides and people at their worst possible moment, so they're not in that mood to talk and be cheerful,” Murphy said. “And then once I'm with the kids, I completely forget about all the bad things that I've seen and it reminds me of why I do what I do."