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Monday, June 25, 2012

For DC SCORES kids, the importance of a postgame handshake

Written by Shakeria Reed
DC SCORES AmeriCorps coach

After a sad 5-0 loss for my girls soccer team at Noyes Education Campus this season, the girls jogged off the field disappointed.

One girl ran smack into me, wrapped her arms around my waist, and started balling her eyes out. Her grip was tight and she wouldn't let go.

I asked what was wrong and she wouldn’t tell me. I asked if she was sad because Noyes lost. She said no. I asked if she got hurt. She said no. I asked if the other team said something to her. Same answer.

After about 5 minutes of the girl holding onto me as I did my best trying to console her, she finally told me why she was so distraught.

Some of the girls on the other team didn’t say ‘good game’ and snatched their hands away during the postgame handshake line.

I jokingly said “WHO CARES!. We’re Noyes and we know how hard we’ve worked, we know we had a good game.” She agreed. I said, “Anyways, don't my ‘good games’ and high fives mean more than theirs (putting on my pretend sad voice)?” She laughed and agreed.

Then I finally told her: “You were out there going against them giants. You’re one of our best defenders, taking hits like there’s no tomorrow.”

She laughed and nodded her head, gave me a squeeze, wiped away the last of her tears, said, “Thank you, coach Shakeria,” and rejoined the team.

Working with urban kids, we often forget that they are just that — kids! We see this hard shell displayed as a young child, and a 10-year-old becomes a 15-year--old in a matter of seconds.

Through emotions, language and the known responsibilities of these kids, we think they are fine with taking on the world’s burden. But when the simple swipe of the hand for a high five and an intentional overlooking of efforts is shown, tears are produced.

It was understood that they lost that game, but just that recognition that my kids still did a good job was wanted and needed. My poet-athlete could have brushed it off, rejoined the team and had an attitude the rest of game day, which I have often seen with many of my other kids. But she chose to bare it all to me and make it known that she was upset and hurt.

DCSCORES provides this outlet. DCSCORES provides this safe haven. Mind you, this was a just soccer day. Without the combination of poetry — which in itself is a whole other channel of outspoken emotion — and soccer, who knows where those feelings could have been misplaced.

So on every game day, my kids know that whether they win or lose, they will always be greeted with a smile, high fives all around and the cheesy line, “You guys are always winners in my book,” followed by some laughter. Some respond, “Whatever, coach Shakeria” and I even get an “OOO shsssh!!,” but I do know that the recognition gets through to some and translates into the kids being happy they came to DC SCORES that day.

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