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Monday, November 2, 2009

DC SCORES alumni continue playing soccer competitively

On a recent Monday afternoon, DC SCORES athletic director Kenny Owens was put in a tough spot.

Similar to when a college coach faces his former players or assistant coaches, Owens found himself coaching against eight or nine high school kids whom he had watched develop as players just a few years earlier.

Owens paced the sideline at Bell High School, coaching his Wilson team against a Bell squad comprised of several former DC SCORES players. The game underscored the fact that for more and more DC SCORES poet-athletes, soccer has become a game they want to keep playing after leaving the program following eighth grade.

While the middle-school program is just in its sixth year and still features only six schools -- one of which, Oyster-Adams, is new this year -- there are more than 20 program alumni playing high school soccer in Washington, D.C.

Most of the players are at Bell, which shares a building with Lincoln Middle School, in Northwest D.C. and at McKinley Technology High School in Northeast. 

And many of the players are pretty good, which Owens witnessed, much to his chagrin, when two former DC SCORES participants scored for Bell in the teams' 3-3 tie. 

Owens wasn't happy about his team blowing a 3-1 lead, but after the game he hung around and chatted with his former players, proud of how well they have developed as players.

"It's fun definitely just to see them grow, because a lot of those kids I've known since (they were in) sixth grade," Owens said. "So to see not only how they've developed on the soccer field, but how they've developed and become mature as people is great."

Owens recalled how when DC SCORES began programming at Lincoln, 30 kids surrounded him in the cafeteria, yearning for the opportunity to be a part of the program. Many of them already had a passion for soccer, but lacked the organized opportunity to compete.

Now, having played in the program's middle-school league as well as on a Stoddert recreational team that Owens coached made up of DC SCORES kids from all over the city -- a few also played on a Stoddert travel team  -- some alumni could have the opportunity to continue playing in college.

They would join Nancy Soriano as past DC SCORES participants to play collegiate soccer. Soriano, who was a poet-athlete at Tubman Elementary School, is a freshman for Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. 

After the final whistle had blown, ending the game between the District's top two public school teams -- Wilson has won the past two District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) titles, one under Owens -- Bell's current players walked up to their old coach, grinning.

"What happened??" one of them jokingly asked Owens, referring to Bell's two goals in the final 10 minutes.

The comeback might have been improbable, but DC SCORES alumni becoming good high school soccer players is a growing trend.

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