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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Inside the season at Marie Reed Elementary Part I: Preparing for Game Day

This fall, DC SCORES intern Mir’ed Asfour is following the boys and girls teams at Marie Reed Elementary School, the flagship school of our program. Check back each week for posts highlighting the students and coaches at Reed; detailing the successes and struggles of the season; and placing in the spotlight everything that goes on behind the scenes during a DC SCORES soccer season.

See photos from the season on Flickr.


Written by Mir’ed Asfour

As I walked toward Marie Reed Elementary SchooI, I  felt a crisp, cool air accompany me. Upon approaching Marie Reed’s soccer field, I saw colleague Sean Hinkle, Associate Program Director for Quality, applying a fresh coat of white paint onto the grass, creating the lines of what was to be Reed’s playing surface for the upcoming season.

Although I was unsure of what to expect, one thing quickly became clear: fall is here.

Marie Reed Elementary School, originally Marie Reed Learning Center, in Adams Morgan was the first school to introduce a combination of soccer and poetry for students after school. Julie Kennedy, a former teacher at Marie Reed, invented this complementary combination of activities in 1994 when she began working with a group of 15 girls with little to do after school.

I took the brief 20-minute walk from the DC SCORES office to Marie Reed to see Ms. Kennedy’s program in action, as I observed both the girls and boys soccer teams practice and prepare for their first game day against Thomson Elementary School.

Upon entering Marie Reed, I was introduced to the coach of the girls soccer team, Ms. Leticia Lacomba, who kindly welcomed me to the school. Coach Lacomba was excited to learn that I would be visiting Reed every Wednesday, and she walked me down to Reed’s gym where the girls team conglomerated in the center circle.

Before introducing me to the girls, Lacomba distributed the soccer schedule to the girls for their parents. The girls skimmed over their schedule with excitement.

“When do we play Tubman?!” asked one girl.

“Are we playing Thomson?”  another girl wondered.

“Who do we play this week?” was asked by a third.

Lacomba explained to the girls that their first game would be played against Thomson. “Do you see how we are in bold?” she questioned her players, “That means we are the home team.”

Lacomba then introduced me to the girls. She divulged into the specifics of why I would be visiting them each week.

Introduction complete, I walked to the field where the boys team was gathered. I met their coach, Sean Lenaghan, and once more explained that I would be following their team over the course of the season. He instructed the children to take laps around the field to warm up. As the kids circled the field, they expressed their excitement for the season.

After the team took their lap and stretched, they split up into two teams to scrimmage each other, as practice before their game the next day. Coach Lenaghan picked each team and instructed the teams to choose a formation and get ready to play. Both teams selected a similar formation with two defenders, two midfielders, and two forwards.

The scrimmage kicked off, and less than a minute later the ball was kicked out of bounds. Coach Lenaghan took this opportunity to remind all his players of the technique for a proper throw-in.

“Both feet down, and the ball above your head” he told them. The scrimmage continued after a successful, rule-abiding throw-in.  

The ball bounced between both teams, possession trading constantly. On the sideline, not far from me, a young boy was yelling, “Control! Control!” I wondered if he was a teammate, friend, or sibling as I approached him.

“I don’t go to aftercare, and my little sister goes here so I come help out and set up goals,” said Tanvir R., a Reed alum who played on the team last year. “They’re looking good (this year). Last year we almost made it to the finals.”

He evaluated the team some more.

“I think they have a chance this year. They need to talk more. They’re already doing it some, saying ‘pass’ and ‘man on,’ but practice will make it better.”

Tanvir said there was a lot of continuity from last year’s team, with his former teammates Jubayed A., Isaac A., Jason V., Isa C., Jonathan G., Kavon R. and Ye N. all returning.

As I talked to Tanvir, one of the players walked off the field seemingly out of breath. Emerson N. had just been hit with a ball in the gut and was gasping for air. I told him to put his hands above his head and expand his lungs as he took in the oxygen he desperately needed. After regaining his breath, Emerson couldn’t stand to be on the sideline and quickly sprinted back onto the field, highlighting the overall excitement exuded by each player the day before their first game.

When the scrimmage concluded, the team split into two lines and began a drill in which one player practiced proper throw-in technique by throwing the ball to a teammate who used his chest to block it and gain control. After each throw, the player who was throwing became the player receiving, and the player receiving walked to the back of the line.

Five minutes later, Coach Lenaghan ended practice by calling all his players in. He talked about the upcoming game and  the importance of sportsmanship. He instructed each player that if an opposing player is on the ground, it’s important to help them up. Coach Lenaghan also complimented players on the completed practice, especially for using the correct throw-in technique.

Then all hands were placed in, and “ONE .. TWO .. THREE .. REED!” was exclaimed in unison, before the players walked inside to receive their uniforms.

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