Last Thursday, the DC SCORES teams from Bancroft Elementary School and MacFarland Middle School got the opportunity to learn soccer skills from professionals, receive autographed balls, and become aware of an important cause.
All in the span of just over an hour.
The students visited a grassy spot on the National Mall, where they were greeted by players on Real Salt Lake, the defending Major League Soccer champion. Also on hand were members of Nothing But Nets, a grassroots movement organized to prevent malaria in African countries through advocacy.
And for entertainment purposes, a mosquito mascot – yes, believe it – was present and was immediately surrounded and tugged at by the Bancroft students.
But much was learned during the brief afternoon on the Mall. Students learned about malaria by playing a version of freeze tag in which the kids with mosquito stickers were it. When they tagged someone, one of the “doctors” – equipped with a large net – could free the frozen person by throwing the net over them.
Larry D. of Bancroft was a doctor and enjoyed the game, saying it helped him learn about the deadly disease.
There were also three soccer stations, where students were taught proper technique by DC Stoddert Soccer League coaches who were paired with the Real Salt Lake players. Members of the professional team were in town for the week, playing D.C. United twice and also visiting with President Obama at the White House Friday.
At one station, the students fine-tuned their passing skills, making sure to bend their knees when kicking and stop the ball right in front of them when receiving a pass. A MacFarland girl even got tips from Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis, who demonstrated the proper passing technique and then helped her get it right.
At another station, participants worked on different types of dribbling and moves. And at the final station, a pair of Real Salt Lake players demonstrated how to bounce a ball off your knee and then control it with one of your feet. At first, kids struggled to gain control of the ball. But after several attempts and tips from the group leaders, they gained confidence and made big improvements.
A storm cut the clinic short by a bit, but that didn’t stop the participants from lining up near a 10-foot-tall inflatable ball to get their free soccer balls signed by the Real Salt Lake contingent, which included captain and Maryland native Kyle Beckerman.
Afterward, the kids, with their new balls and bags, were all smiles as they prepared to board the bus back to school.
“We learned that professional soccer players are very fast,” Bancroft’s Jennifer R. said.
And the students learned a few other things as well.