Written by Jake Lloyd
I turned around, wondering what the commotion was all about. It didn't take long to identify the source.
Striding toward us across President's Park, in lockstep and united as a team just like on the soccer field, was the U.S. Women's National Soccer team -- the same group of women who captured the country's attention and inspired millions of young soccer lovers this summer.
The scene was a pleasant if somewhat chilly Monday afternoon, the occasion a clinic for our team from Brightwood Education Campus in conjunction with the National Parks Foundation and National Park Service -- and their "Find Your Park" movement --- and partner Coca Cola.
The clinic was great. Groups of kids cycled in and out of stations led by USWNT coach Jill Ellis and her staff. The coaches led relay races involving kids speed dribbling around cones and communicating with teammates. On another area of the grassy pitch, kids practiced one-touch shooting. The coaches were enthusiastic and always moving. The kids followed suit, a giddy-up in their step.
But their excitement level reached a new pitch when the stars of the summer approached. Organizers and volunteers from the Catholic University men's soccer team had to settle the kids down so as not to swarm the likes of Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux.
Once everyone was settled, the players facing the kids in a long line as if for the national anthem before a game, kids got the opportunity to ask questions of the World Cup champions. Most questions revolved around when the women began playing soccer -- 4 years old! -- and what inspired them.
Wambach, the all-time great who announced her retirement the following day, took a moment to thank the youth for being at the park.
"You give us hope for future World Cup champions," Wambach told the wide-eyed kids.
The questions answered, kids then got the opportunity to receive autographs and pictures with the players before the event came to a close and the women's national team prepared for its visit the next day to the White House.
The Brightwood Panthers might not reach the level of Abby, Carli and company on the soccer field -- although don't rule them out -- but judging by "My Dream is to __" posters that they filled out prior to the clinic (see our photo album), they are inspired to do big things
Who knows. Maybe one day they'll be striding across a field to similar applause.