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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Washington Freedom, D.C. United players visit DC SCORES middle school

D.C. United forward Adam Cristman has probably never been as grilled by reporters as he was Tuesday afternoon.

Except that the dozens of questions he answered during the interview session weren’t, in fact, hurled at him by cranky journalists. Rather, curious DC SCORES students at MacFarland Middle School peppered him about every topic imaginable.

How do you prepare for your next game?

How do you know what the other team’s weaknesses are?

Do you get nervous?

What do you think about your new coach?

Do you have a private airplane?

Those were just a handful of the plethora of questions asked by inquisitive students of the fourth-year Major League Soccer player. Cristman and Washington Freedom goalkeeper Erin McLeod were gracious enough to sacrifice an afternoon during their respective seasons to fulfill the curiosity of MacFarland’s poet-athletes and also play a soccer scrimmage with them.

It was a great experience for the students, who learned a lot about the backgrounds of Cristman -- who has played for three Major League Soccer teams as well as the U.S. National Team -- and McLeod -- who has played on Canadian World Cup and Olympic teams -- and how they perform their jobs on a day-to-day basis.

While there were plenty of silly questions to go around – McLeod was asked, “Have you ever bled?” – there were more serious, well-structured questions that made you think perhaps there were some future reporters in the room.

For instance, one student asked Cristman if he ever gets nervous before games. He gave a great reply, saying that he occasionally does but never had more butterflies than when he went through a swimming exercise regimen as part of his rehabilitation from an injury.

Another student asked Cristman a question about how the team prepares for a game and then followed it up by inquiring about watching video of upcoming opponents to scout them. 

The back-and-forth question-and-answer session for Cristman and then McLeod lasted close to an hour, and by the end it was clear that the students had learned a great deal about the lives of professional athletes – some of the students were surprised to learn that McLeod’s full-time job is playing soccer – and were also ready to play.

So with the rain coming down outside, the students and professionals headed to the MacFarland gym where a spirited scrimmage took place. None of the kids were intimidated by the pros – even though, as they’d pointed out during the Q&A, Cristman almost looks like a football player. And there was plenty of teamwork on display, even in the small gym, as the players passed to the pros then got the ball back and continued to share it.

By the end of the afternoon, everyone’s brain was fried and they’d worked up a good sweat. It had been a special couple hours at the DC SCORES middle school, thanks in large part to a pair of local professionals who subjected themselves to some tough questions and a heated game of soccer.

McLeod was talking about playing for the Freedom when she answered a question, “I feel like the luckiest person in the world because I get to do this every day.”

But she could have been speaking for the MacFarland poet-athletes Tuesday afternoon, because the constant smiles on their faces displayed just how much they enjoyed the whole experience.

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