By Nyesha Stone
Jimmy Banks was a hidden legend in the city and a part of this is due to Banks himself. Banks knew what he had accomplished but instead of boasting about it, he gave back to his community.
Banks is a soccer legend and referred to as the best soccer player out of Wisconsin. He recently passed at the age of 54 on April 26, 2019 at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital.
He played with the US national team at the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Banks also spent six seasons with the Milwaukee Wave, prior to playing soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After playing professional indoor and outdoor soccer, he came back home to bring soccer to inner-city youth.
In 1996, Banks co-founded the Milwaukee Simba Soccer Club with the goal of providing soccer to Black and Hispanic youth in Milwaukee, regardless if they could afford to pay or not.
According to previous Milwaukee Simba Soccer Club player, Demetrius White, said soccer is a very expensive sport but it’s one our youth should have the opportunity to experience, and that’s what the club has been doing.
White first met Banks in his younger days when Banks was his coach at the club. Banks became a father-figure to White on and off the field.
“He was a friend, a father, a coach,” White said about Banks. “He took me under his wing at eleven-years-old.”
White said Banks had a tremendous impact on the club. Because of Banks, White said he and his teammates—who have a lifelong brotherhood—were able to become great soccer players. According to White, 85% of the players Banks coached went on to college to play soccer or got great careers.
As the current president of Milwaukee Simba Soccer Club, White said he spent his last few conversations with Banks discussing starting a work program within the club.
“If you know Jimmy, all he wanted was for our youth to have an opportunity,” said White.
The club coaches youth six to ten years of age and 11 to 16, boys and girls. It was more than just soccer for Banks, he used soccer to create a pipeline for youth to do better, White said.
Many would agree that he would do anything for his community, and soccer was his way of doing that.
White even said Banks taught him and his teammates respect, which has carried them far in life.
He also always gave the right advice, he said.
From talking to Banks every day to having to say goodbye, White promises to carry on Banks’ vision of impacting the youth. White is creating a soccer program through the club for three to five years old in July.
Although there’s a lot of money to be made in soccer, White said the most important aspect is the connections.
“It’s not about the money, it’s the friendship,” White said. “It’s a brotherhood. It’s fraternity.”