If there are any boys walking the Kennedy High hallways with aspirations of being the next Lionel Messi or Javier Hernandez, please go see head soccer coach Aaron Colacion in his classroom and tell him you want to sign up. He needs you. There’s a very good chance you’ll see a lot of playing time.
As it stands right now there are only 15 students to fill Kennedy’s JV and varsity soccer teams. It takes 11 players to play a game. If you’re doing the math, that’s seven players short of filling a two-team roster.
Kennedy is no Richmond or El Cerrito High with swelling enrollments and pick-of-the-litter talent. But there is enough interest in the sport to fill two teams.
The culprit: bad grades. Colacion said of the 15 students that had varsity talent or experience, eight failed to make a 2.0 or C average to play. They can return to the team in mid-January if their grades improve, he said. But by that time the 2012-2013 season will practically be over.
Kennedy must now field a varsity team with freshmen and sophomores. In layman’s terms that’s feeding the sheep to the wolves. And to a young person learning what healthy competition means, getting beat day in and day out can be tough.
Kennedy Athletic Director Miesha Gash is not giving up hope. She said the school is still actively recruiting players to fill two teams and that high school athletics does not discriminate based on varying degree levels of competitiveness.
“We never know if we’re going to have some younger athletes who are ready to step up,” she said. “They may be JV because they’re 9th and 10th graders but it doesn’t mean that they cannot play up in order to participate. Young people will rise to the occasion especially with the support and confidence and training of the coaches.”
After practice on Veteran’s Day, head coach Colacion said what makes his team different is that there are three different skill levels playing on one team. “It can be frustrating for some of the players,” he said, explaining how players with more know-how practice at the level of less skilled competition. “It’s kind of tough. But at the end of the day there are five or six guys [on our team] that have never played soccer before in an organized way.”
“This is my first time,” 10th grader Bryant Payne said after Monday’s practice. “I wasn’t even going to play. But I was playing soccer at PE and my teacher said I should come and play for the team.”
A strong runner, Payne hopes to play offense. But because of his lack of experience and ball control will probably be regulated to defense. “I like to rush at people,” he said describing his defensive technique.
For first-time player Daniel Arandia Diaz soccer is personal. He’s played soccer on the weekends with his cousins but would never be selected for a team. “People said I couldn’t make it,” the 9th grader said about playing for Kennedy. “That made me want to prove them wrong.”
“All these kids are good boys,” head coach Colacion said before leaving Monday’s holiday practice. “They rode their bikes or took the bus to get here. I respect that.”
Respect and being competitive are two different things. What remains to be seen if Kennedy’s soccer program can show the county that they are a glass half full and not a glass half empty.