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In 2018, Kenniel Martin, the now founder and president of the Hartford Lions Soccer Academy (HLSA), began the process of creating the organization with the goal of providing young athletes in Hartford, Connecticut, a place to play soccer locally instead of playing in a different town. Besides just providing a local place for youth to develop their soccer skills though, it was also important to him to build an organization that would be sustainable for years to come, and that not only serves the community, but can be something that the community is proud of. 

Kenniel Martin’s soccer career goes back to when he was a child in Jamaica, and played on the Jamaican National Team before moving to the United States and playing for Weaver High School in Hartford, Connecticut. The midfielder continued his soccer career at the collegiate level as he earned a scholarship to play for the University of Hartford where he was selected as a team captain. After being a four-year starter for the Hawks, Martin spent time in the Major League Soccer (MLS) playing for the Chicago Fire before he packed his bags and played overseas in Romania, Finland, and finally, Turkey.   

Despite turning his dream of playing soccer professionally into a reality, the balance of soccer and regular daily life did not come easily for him or his family. When he was living and playing soccer as a youth in Connecticut, his family struggled with the fact that his town that he lived in, Hartford, did not have a soccer program. As a result, Martin and his family not only had to overcome financial obstacles, but had to be creative in finding transportation methods in order for him to be able to attend soccer practices and games.

“My family and I had to be creative in order to find a way to get to practices and games,” said Martin. “We relied on friends, and coaches to help bring us to where we needed to be.” 

A way that he has ensured that athletes do not have to experience what he did as a child is by developing two programs: a youth soccer league for athletes ages three years-old to 14 years-old, and the Lioness League, a league just for women which happens to also be the first women's only league in the Hartford area. Developing and creating a league where residents of Hartford can compete and grow was a huge factor and driving force behind HLSA as Martin points out “Talent is universal, opportunity is not.” 

Beyond just the playing field however, the HLSA values the importance of family, and strives to help families not only by providing them with a place to be active, but as a place to get involved through volunteering opportunities in the local community. As a way to get involved with volunteering opportunities, the HLSA has focused on building relationships with other organizations including partnerships with Around the Worlds, Hartford Athletic, Kingswood Oxford School, Trinity Solar, and West Indian Foundation. 

“The HLSA is bigger than soccer. We want kids and parents to be involved in the community whether by volunteering by helping those in need, but also being proud of the HLSA and understanding the sense of community” added Martin.

The HLSA also takes pride in helping and assisting families during life's obstacles by providing resources to those in need such as by leading seminars that deal with finance, prepping for college, and teaching life lessons like being a part of something that is bigger than themselves.   

For more information about how you can become a part of the Hartford Lions Soccer Academy family, email us at [email protected]



When Hartford Lions Soccer Academy founder and current president, Kenniel Martin was looking to build a sustainable program for athletes and families for years to come, Martin knew that he wanted an organization name and logo that not only represented himself, but that represented what the organization is all about.

The “H'' is because of the fact that Kenniel Martin wanted to make a program that helped the local Hartford community by providing a place to play the game of soccer without having the stress of traveling to other towns just to play. Something that Martin had to do as a child to play the game that he later on came to love. 

The “L,” which stands for lions, came after Martin found himself pondering on different ideas of what to have as a logo. Martin thought about using something that represents power, and the ability to overcome both adversity and hardships. With that in mind, Martin decided to use the lion, an animal that not only represents overcoming adversity and hardships, but that symbolizes courage, loyalty, strength, protection, bravery, and of course, is the king of the jungle. 

The “S,” which stands for soccer is just one of the things that the HLSA helps teach to their members. If you look closely at the HLSA logo, you can notice that the soccer ball under the lion's paw is not a modern ball. Rather, the soccer ball is an old school soccer ball which symbolizes the history of soccer as well as teaching the basics and fundamentals of the game.

Beyond just teaching the game of soccer, Kenniel Martin wanted to make an organization that assists parents by providing resources to help families overcome some of life’s hardest challenges.

“The Hartford Lions Soccer Academy is more than just about soccer” said, Kenniel Martin. “I wanted to build an Academy (the A), so that we could help parents by providing them with seminars and forums that cover various topics like managing their finances.”

To some, soccer is just a game, but for Kenniel Martin and the rest of the members of the Hartford Lions Soccer Academy, it is a way of life.