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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Teamwork, leadership and commitment on display during Capital Cup Championship games

KIPP AIM warms up for their championship game.
As her team took laps around the field at Alice Deal Middle School Monday afternoon, Caity Schneeman yelled out "TLC!"

Teamwork. Leadership. Commitment.

Those are the three values indelible within each DC SCORES program throughout the District, and never were they more apparent than during the three Capital Cup middle school championship games Monday and Tuesday.

Schneeman's KIPP AIM team was overmatched by a very talented Deal team, which took a 5-0 lead early in the second half. With the wind whipping the field and the temperature dipping down to 30 degrees, the KIPP kids could have easily quit during the co-ed championship game.

Instead, they showed tremendous commitment, running full-speed ahead at every loose ball. It was as if they had unlimited energy, and their efforts paid off late in the game when they scored two goals in a one-minute span. Afterward, Schneeman and her fellow coaches couldn't have been more proud of the team as they received their runner-up trophy and medals.


The Lincoln Middle School girls championship team.
That same afternoon, in those same frigid conditions, the Lincoln Middle School girls soccer team had no plans to end practice on time.

Instead, the Knights stayed late at their field in Columbia Heights, working on the skill that had united them and brought them within one victory of the Capital Cup championship during the fall season:

Passing the ball.

The next afternoon, playing in a rain storm, the Knights' teamwork paid off as they shared the ball and played united during a 2-0 victory over Capital City Public Charter School. When the final whistle blew, everyone ran to each other for an enormous group hug and celebration that wasn't at all dampened by the dreadful weather.

"We used to not like to pass," said eighth-grader Becky R. as she clutched her MVP trophy. "We used to just go for the goal, just go for the kick. But then coach (Charity Blackwell), and Ana and Jarmar told us that in order to make a goal, we have to pass. So we practiced that a lot."

The Knights grew as a team under the leadership of Blackwell and Ana and Jarmar, two DC SCORES Lincoln alumni who dedicated their time during the fall to being assistant coaches for the team. Their commitment helped mold a group of girls who took pride in getting their schoolwork done together, writing poetry alongside each other, and then donning the maroon Lincoln soccer uniforms and taking the field as a team.

The result was obvious on Tuesday.

"They learned what it means to have commitment," said Blackwell, who is also a DC SCORES Soccer Coordinator through the Coach Across America program. "Once they saw that everybody was showing up and that everybody had the same goal to win this, everybody was on the same page, and I think that's what brought them to this moment."

With a big smile on her rain-soaked face, Becky reveled in her championship moment.

"It feels great," she said. "It's my first time being in a championship, it's my first time winning this. I feel happy for me and my team and my coach."


From left: DC SCORES Executive Director
Amy Nakamoto, Larry D., Edgar A.
During halftime of the boys Capital Cup championship game between Lincoln and Cesar Chavez Prep, Lincoln coach Popsie Lewis pulled aside eighth-graders Larry D. and Edgar A.

After taking an early 2-0 lead, Lincoln had allowed two Chavez goals late in the half to tie the game. Lewis now needed his veterans to step up and lead on the field. After all, they had been in a similar situation two years prior.

As sixth-graders, Larry and Edgar were part of Lincoln's team that overcame adversity to win a thrilling Capital Cup championship over Oyster-Adams Bilingual School.

"Hey man," Lewis reminded Larry during the intermission, "out of everybody else, you and Edgar should feel most comfortable."

It didn't take long for the boys to take Lewis' words to heart. Early in the second half, Larry settled a crossing pass in the middle of the field and pounded a left-footed shot into the upper portion of the net for a 3-2 lead. He added another goal minutes later.

Not long after that, Lewis' two leaders were holding the MVP trophy together.

"This year, it was our time to regain" the championship, Larry said afterward -- his teeth chattering as the rain continued to fall and the temperature dropped.

Lewis admitted he was skeptical at the beginning of the DC SCORES season, and the path to a championship was far from smooth. Over the course of two months, team members were disciplined for missing school assignments by being held out of games and/or practices. The result was a renewed commitment to being complete student-athletes and DC SCORES participants -- not just soccer players.

Larry and Edgar set this example throughout the season.

"This year I gave them a lot of responsibilities when it comes to manning up and just basically leading the team," Lewis said.

As they showed Tuesday, they were up to the challenge.


DC SCORES builds teams such as KIPP AIM, and Deal, and Lincoln, and Capital City, and Chavez Prep. It also builds communities.

That's why on Monday afternoon in upper northwest, a KIPP AIM parent was on the sideline -- having made the long trip across the city to watch his two children play in the cold.

That's also why on Tuesday afternoon in some of the most miserable conditions you can imagine for standing around, close to 100 former Lincoln and Chavez Prep program participants lined the sideline at Bell High School to watch and cheer on their middle school teams.

During the school day on Tuesday, Larry and Edgar and Becky and the rest of the Lincoln Knights were sitting in class when an announcement was made over the loudspeaker about the afternoon's two championship games.

"It was a huge announcement," Larry said. "Everybody started clapping."

There will undoubtedly be another announcement today at Lincoln. And, most likely, a lot of clapping and celebrating.

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