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Celebrating wins, not losses is the new standard for Kennedy soccer program

on November 1, 2012

Soccer is gearing up at Kennedy High. With 14 boys running two miles, three times a week around the football field, no one notices but the guys in shoulder pads.

And because the gridiron crew still has full control of the Astroturf, the fútbol players have to take their yellow and orange cones to the netless tennis courts to practice their drills.

Barcelona they’re not. But aspiring soccer players shouldn’t have to act like Roger Federer either.

Tryouts don’t even start until the first week of November, but head coach Aaron Colacion said he’s using the West Contra Costa Unified School District after school program to see who’s committed to the sport.

Once the last bell of the day rings, the hodgepodge of soccer hopefuls head to a one-hour study hall to complete their homework, and grab a free meal provided by the YMCA. Only when their brains and stomachs are full do they march off in unison toward the tennis courts for their two hours of physical activity.

On the tennis courts player’s feet move with cat-like speed. Long shadows are cast on the green surface as balls roll and bounce in every direction. Precision passing and trapping the ball will come when they make the team.

If they’re not Barcelona, though, they’re not the Bad News Bears either. Last year’s team went undefeated in league and made the playoffs.

As the two hours of training came to an end, several Lionel Messi wannabes pack up the balls and return everything to their coach’s freshman English class where he prepares a lesson plan for the next day. Sitting behind his desk, the former UC Irvine soccer player explained the culture of Kennedy soccer and how it differs from other powerhouses.

“The [Kennedy] players measure themselves by their loses and not by their achievements,” the second-year coach said. “The last two years they’ve been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the team who went to the finals. They feel good about that, but it’s not a winner’s mentality.”

Being happy about losing is far from what any coach wants to hear out of his players. Colacion said his hope for the team is that they learn how to work hard in the classroom and on the field, and that they can translate that strong-mindedness into everyday life.

Colacion, who once played for the U.S. Youth Olympic Development Program in Orange County, said winning is not a measure of who an individual is, but rather a platform to build self esteem and school pride. “The players need to learn to win,” he said. “Everyone who’s felt success knows and enjoys replicating success in everything they do.”

One player who’s taken the coach’s message to heart is 9th grader Oscar Gonzales. In just one short month the 15-year-old has lost over 20 pounds and has dreams of making the soccer team. When asked how he’s lost so much weight, he said he changed his diet from a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to a bag of carrots.

“I used to be one of the guys that would never do anything and be a couch potato,” he said as he walked towards the tennis courts. “But since soccer league started I go to the park and run more. I changed my life around.”

And in 10 short days when head coach Colacion selects his players to man the soccer field, and his players get to practice on turf instead of a service line, celebrating a loss will no longer be the norm.

“Winning is a skill and mindset that will stay with you throughout life,” Colacion said.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Bonnie M. Davis on November 3, 2012 at 6:18 am

    I have observed Mr. Colacion teaching his classes on multiple occasions. He carries that same asset thinking to his classroom, and he guarantees his students will succeed by building relationships with them and using research based strategies and higher level instruction to teach his class. He does what we all need to do to reach and teach students in the 21st Century. I hope the district will use his skills to model for others what can happen in the classroom when one does what Mr. Colacion does–and what other teachers are capable of if they have the will and the skills to do it.

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