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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lincoln Middle School students visit White House, ask questions of pro soccer players

Written by Zach Gomes
Soccer Coordinator and Lincoln Middle School coach

The DC SCORES Lincoln Middle School Knights got to meet the MLS Champion, LA Galaxy, and NHL Champion, LA Kings, — and we got to do it at the White House!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I was informed that the White House wanted to invite around 30 middle school-aged kids to join the Galaxy for their championship presentation and, possibly, a soccer clinic. The Lincoln Knights were a perfect fit, so it was decided that we were going.

It takes a lot of work to get 30 kids to the White House. It involves permission slips and a lot of other data collection. After all, the White House isn’t your everyday field trip.

With help from Ms. Pugh (the DC SCORES champion at Lincoln) and my colleagues, we began planning for the trip. I couldn’t have been more excited. I had wanted to bring the kids on a field trip since day one as their coach in the fall, and to finally be going somewhere was awesome; the fact it was the White House was icing on the cake.

I was flabbergasted at the response from some of the kids when I told them we had been selected to go to the White House.

Me: “We’re going to the White House next week, guys!”

Student: “Why?” (Unenthusiastically)

Me: “Why!? Why does it matter!? It’s the White House, people!”

Student: “Hmmmm okay. Well do we get to miss class?”

Me: “Well yes … but that’s not the point! It’s the White House!”

I couldn’t believe some of the kids, but I got over it. After all, they’re kids.

My colleagues and I got all the paperwork in on time. We would go to the White House on Monday.

The Friday night before our trip, I got a call from Soccer Program Manager Carlos Fonseca. Carlos had good news and bad news.

Bad news: The clinic on the White House lawn is canceled!

(My mind at this point: ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! NOOOO!!!)

Good news: We are still going to the White House and we are going to watch President Obama congratulate both teams.

(My mind at this point: ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!! YESSSSS!!!!)

Monday came and I wore my best suit (my only suit) and headed to Lincoln to get the kids ready.

We got to the White House right on time and made it through security and into the White House’s East wing (not a bad-looking house).

The students and I were led into a packed room filled with cameras and fancy people. After a little while, the Kings and Galaxy entered the room and filled up the stage. Soon after that, there was an announcement: “And now the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.”

I looked over at the kids. Finally, they were impressed. If only the President could be present at all my classes and practices.

President Obama congratulated both teams and took some pictures. It was a short celebration, but only the beginning for the kids.

After the President exited the room, the entire Lincoln team was led into another room not far away. There was a stage and several chairs set up. Every chair had a Galaxy jersey, a soccer ball and a Galaxy winter hat on it. The kids loved their new gear.

After putting the jerseys on, the kids participated in a Q & A with some of the pros from both the Galaxy and Kings. The kids asked awesome questions.

“Did anybody ever tell you that you couldn’t make it?”

“How did it feel to score your first goal?”

“What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in a game?”

The kids got their jerseys and soccer balls signed and took some pictures with the pros. As we exited the White House and made our way back to the bus, every kid was beaming.

Katie S., an eighth-grader who has been with DC SCORES for three years, walked up to me as we left and said, “Coach Zach, we are really lucky.”

It was a great experience for every kid involved — something they will be able to talk about for the rest of their lives, long after they outgrow the soccer jersey.

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