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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alumni tournament brings old teammates, opponents together for afternoon of soccer

Sebastian D. loved and was also a bit surprised by what he was seeing in front of him.

On this beautiful, sun-drenched afternoon, the green turf field outside Tubman Elementary School was filled with soccer talent.

Teams of high school students playing competitive, quality soccer — one game after another on three adjacent fields.

"Kids that used to stink, they're really, really good!,” said Sebastian, a junior at Wilson High School who used to play on the DC SCORES Oyster-Adams team. “There have been improvements!"

And that was an understatement.

The event was the second annual DC SCORES Alumni Soccer Tournament, and it featured six teams of former poet-athletes representing schools from all over the District playing a handful of games against former teammates and opponents from the program.

For the majority of the students, the first team they had ever played on was through DC SCORES. For some of them, they never would have touched a soccer ball if not for DC SCORES.

But you never could have known that from watching the action last Thursday. While more than 70 students played, another 50-plus former DC SCORES students, peers and community members lined the sideline and stands at Tubman, intently watching blazing shots, diving saves, and nifty footwork on the small-sided fields.

Alumni Council President Aaron H. of Phelps High School, standing on the sideline during a set of games, marveled at the scene around him.

"It's a lot of schools that's represented,” he said. “A lot of people that played when they were in elementary school, they came back to play in the tournament. And a lot of people, they told their friends about it and they came out. So it's a good turnout."

While the teams were mostly comprised of boys, Elsa L. of Bell High School and a group of her friends played on one of the teams representing Lincoln Middle School’s large contingent of alumni.

"It makes me feel good,” Elsa said of playing. “Usually other girls don't want to go out because it's like (all) guys and soccer can seem like a guys sport. I feel like I'm taking leadership by playing. I'm representing girls basically."

During the fall, Elsa represents Bell on the school soccer team alongside other DC SCORES alumni. This spring, she’s playing on a club team for the first time, which, she said, is giving her the opportunity to improve by playing tough competition.

As she sat watching her Lincoln team battle against Sebastian’s highly talented, cohesive Oyster-Adams/Wilson squad — "It's really comfortable,” Sebastian said of playing alongside his former DC SCORES teammates — Elsa considered the soccer development she’d experienced since joining the team at Lincoln.

"DC SCORES has a lot of things going on and it helps people want to stay in soccer. I started soccer because of DC SCORES and I continue because of it too."

That, among other things, was what the tournament represented. It was about continuing to provide an opportunity to a diverse group of District youth to be on a team and compete in a structured environment. And it showed the development of DC SCORES’ burgeoning older youth program, which every week becomes more popular.

The Facebook account representing the alumni program has 290 friends and daily interaction from former poet-athletes interested in being referees for DC SCORES elementary school games or helping to organize the next big alumni event. A recently developed alumni Twitter account (@DCSCORESAlumni) has almost 50 followers.

And on a day during spring break when the high school students could have been doing anything, more than 100 of them chose to spend four hours playing soccer, hanging out with friends — new and old — and strengthening their connection to the program that, for many of them, led to their love for the Beautiful Game.

"I'm very pleased with how things are going,” President Aaron said as he stripped off his warmup pants before a game. “Like I said before, a lot of people, they're starting to come out.

“More and more people are starting to get involved with the alumni."

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