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Monday, October 18, 2010

The DC SCORES Fall Frenzy from a coach's eyes

Saturday was the 16th annual Fall Frenzy, and the celebration of DC SCORES’ autumn season didn’t disappoint. Upon pulling up to Kelly Miller Middle School a few minutes after 10 a.m., the school’s outdoor fields were already packed with kids, parents, siblings, volunteers and others.

I was filling in as a coach for the day, in charge of the Wheatley Education Campus poet-athletes, so I got the opportunity to experience every facet of the Frenzy. One thing after another.

And for anyone seeing a DC SCORES event for the first time, it encapsulated almost everything that our program is about.

The day began with all the teams – each sporting their different-colored jerseys – gathered around one of the nine fields as Athletic Director Kenny Owens pointed to each group of students to incite a response. “Tubman!” “Kelly Miller!” And then, “Wheatley!” My 10 purple shirt-wearing students represented well.

Then we were off to the arts and crafts table. It was easy to see that they were eager to get out on the soccer field. Being around so many peers, with DJ RBI pumping beats and people running about, it wasn’t easy to sit down. But they did, creating little jack-o’-lanterns made up of bags of popcorn with eyes, noses and mouths glued to them.

Next, it was time for a warm-up station that would get everyone loose for the games. People from Infinity Wellness – a DC organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity – were kind to donate their time and had set up an area parallel to the fields to take kids through different exercises.

The students broke into two teams with the first task of running in and out of mini hula hoops – first forward, then jumping in and out, then sideways. Then everyone paired up and did as many sit-ups as they could. As one boy reached 20, I encouraged him to go for 25. He was still going strong at that point, however, so I said, “Why not 30?” Moments later, he was completing his 35th sit-up. Impressive.

With everyone having worked up a bit of a sweat, we settled into a circle and were led through a series of stretches. The perfect pregame routine.

And then it was game time!

I had never coached Wheatley before and had no idea how much experience any of them had, but I could tell everyone just wanted to play. So I sent out eight students to begin the game, and the effort they gave was incredible.

They played extremely hard and even scored the first goal against a very good team.

Just minutes later, after a quick stop at the lunch tent, we were back on the field for our second game against Marie Reed. One of the really cool things about the Fall Frenzy – and Jamboree! in the spring – is that schools from different parts of the city play against each other, something that isn’t possible during the regular season.

After the first game, one of the quieter kids on my very vocal team had asked if he could play goalie. We didn’t have a goalie jersey, so I handed him my sweatshirt and he proceeded to play tremendously, diving on the ground at least five times for balls as the opposition rushed in. Again, we played hard and were on the losing end.

I could tell I had a super competitive team by how disappointed they were when they lost. But even when they fell behind, their effort never lacked and they continued to run hard for their first-time coach.

There was no time to rest, as we immediately had to climb up a hill up to the larger Field 1 for our final contest of the day. Upon reaching the peak of the hill, a few kids took a roll back down it– hey, who didn’t do such a thing as a kid? – and I could only laugh. They were having fun, living in the moment.

The larger field provided me with an opportunity to play all 10 kids at once against our final opponent, Tubman Elementary School – except that one student initially refused to join her teammates. She had wanted to play goalie, but was afraid to be judged by them.

After we talked for a few minutes, however, she gingerly joined her team. And later in the game, she eagerly took over in goal and made two great saves. I could see her confidence growing with each one, and that made me realize the day had been a success.

The result of the game was another loss, but the students were already thinking about rolling down the hill again. And then getting a DC SCORES “tattoo” – read: face paint – on their way to the bus.

The ride back to school was much quieter than the morning ride. Clearly, we were all exhausted. It had been an action-packed four hours.

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