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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DC SCORES coach's journal, Part IV: Poetry Slam! prep and the BIG GAME!

Zachary Gomes moved to Washington, DC, two months ago from Albany, NY, to begin working at DC SCORES as a Coach Across America AmeriCorps volunteer. Zach has a passion for working with youth, and as part of his work with DC SCORES is coaching poetry and girls soccer at Lincoln Middle School. Throughout the season, Zach will share his experience as one of DC SCORES’ 190 coaches who run the program at our 47 schools. Zach will provide insight on the impact of DC SCORES -- through the eyes of a coach.


Written by Zachary Gomes
Soccer Coordinator

“Burgundy and White in the wind 
Our cry is bold 
We have a team that everyone knows 
Lincoln! Lincoln! Lincoln!”

As the Poetry Slam! approaches, the kids have buckled down and begun preparing for the upcoming performance. Unlike soccer, there isn’t a next week. The Slam! happens once a year, and I think they are starting to get serious about making a big impression on Dec. 3 when they’ll take the stage of their own school.

A large portion of the kids are bilingual, fluent in both Spanish and English. I encouraged the class to express themselves in Spanish. It was interesting watching them disagree on which Spanish words to use, as the difference between Spanish from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras can often be quite different.

By the end of the class, I was smiling like a proud parent. The kids had blown me away with their creativity and use of words. They had created a masterpiece.

To hear them, almost 40 strong, say things like, “Together we are strong!” brought me chills.

And the thing is, when you start saying these types of things together, you begin to understand they are true! You begin to better understand the strength of the community you are in. That is the power of DC SCORES’ poetry and spoken word program.


The energy from poetry spilled over into our soccer practices. The girls were more focused at practice and it was clear the team was getting closer as a unit.

In the beginning of the season, the girls would take a lap, stretch and do a small dynamic warm-up. However, there was no togetherness. Now, they form two lines and perform a warm-up routine that is as organized as that of the U.S. National Teams.

A lot of this change can be credited to the help I am getting from Ana G. Ana is a DC SCORES alumna who graduated from Lincoln and is now in the 11th grade at neighboring Bell High School. She is a natural-born coach and leader.

Ana doesn’t let the girls give up. She is never without a positive comment and she keeps the girls pumped up throughout practice. She helped the girls learn a new pre-game routine, and watching her do it was great. She kept asking them questions like, “Why do we want to look organized?” “What kind of team are we?” “Why can’t WE be the best?” She kept the girls focused and through her questioning helped them to understand why it was important that they learned the new routine as a group.

Ana tells me that a lot of her coaching style is modeled after last year’s Lincoln coach, Charity. Ana not only inspires the team; she inspires me. She is a game-changer.


Our last game was a big one against Chavez Prep. With the two schools separated by a handful of neighborhood blocks, it was a home game for everybody. I had heard about the rivalry before, but didn’t know what I was in for.

The focus on the girls’ faces. They’re eagerness to play. The discipline of the warm-ups. Counting as they stretched, “UNO! DOS! TRES!.” Yelling as loud as they could so that all of Columbia Heights knew they were ready to play…

This was a big game! This was what it’s like to be on a team and feel the thrill of being part of a unit that is working together to achieve a common goal. The support of your teammates; the excitement of game day — it’s fun.

The intensity of the warm-ups matched the pace of the game. In the 10th minute, Chavez Prep snuck a goal past our keeper and took the lead. There was a lot of game left and I knew that this goal could go one of two ways:

1. The girls would get frustrated. 2. The girls would play even harder.

The girls played even harder and I couldn’t have been more proud.

We never got the equalizer we were searching for, but we played our best game of the season. The girls’ passes were on point. The defense held strong like a cement wall. And our keeper Tirsa S., a sixth-grader (the equivalent of a college freshman), played fearlessly! She made a diving save in the second half that had even her opponents clapping for her.

It was a tough loss. Tears were shed and some of the girls were frustrated. But the season continues. And in the end, the girls were smiling and happy, knowing they had put their best foot forward and left it all on the field.

“Burgundy and White in the wind
Our cry is bold
We have a team that everyone knows
Lincoln! Lincoln! Lincoln!”


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