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With all the depressing things going on in women's soccer these days now is as good a time as any to start a new thread. This one is simply heroes - great stories on the beauty of sport and and selfless people. Feel free to share anyone or anything inspirational.

Coach Colin Hocking, you make a great inaugural launch.

Tireless volunteer gave his life to soccer


Coach Colin Hocking (back row, left), celebrates a Winnipeg South Soccer District championship along with his daughter Natalie (front row, far right)

Soccer was always a major part of Colin Hocking’s life — from his birth until his death. He would tell people that he grew up in England kicking a soccer ball as early as he could remember, and continued to do so after moving to Canada at 13.

He was involved with the sport in nearly every conceivable way in his St. Norbert community — as a player, coach, convenor, board member and, most importantly, father.

Hocking died on Jan. 19, the victim of a massive heart attack during a practice with the indoor team he was coaching.

"He was involved with soccer forever," said Hocking’s wife, Sheilagh. "To him, the team aspect of it (was what he loved most). I know all the friends he’s made over the years because of team sports, and he wanted to instill that in his girls."

Hocking’s death at 49 — the same age to within four days of his father’s fatal heart attack — leaves a massive void in the local soccer community, especially at St. Norbert Community Centre, where he was the convenor for at least seven years.

Ever since his oldest daughter, Natalie, was nine years old — she’s now 17, while her sister, Lisa, is 14 — Hocking was coaching one or both of his girls’ teams. The highlight came when he took Natalie’s under-14 team to nationals in 2007.

He also found time to coach the boys’ team at St. Norbert Collegiate, winning a provincial championship in 1996, and was in the process of putting together a women’s team in time for the upcoming outdoor season.

Dan Palsson coached with Hocking for several years and served with him on the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association’s disciplinary committee. He said Hocking was "by far the best coach" his daughter ever had.

"The biggest thing was we were a good team, but he made it into a great team," Palsson said.

Hocking’s greatest feat as a coach, Palsson said, may have been putting the girls through a tough training regimen while making sure the game remained fun.

"A lot of times coaches don’t participate," Palsson said, "but he was a huge advocate of leading by example."

Since Hocking’s death, many former players and their families have told Sheilagh Hocking just how much of an impact her husband had on their lives. He didn’t only make them better athletes, but better people, with more self-confidence and more wisdom about life.

Sandra Stoesz, who Hocking was training to take over as convenor — "He kept saying he was going to retire, but he enjoyed it too much," she said — will miss his boundless passion for the game

"I used to sit with him at registration, and we would talk about how my daughter and son were doing with soccer, and how his girls were doing," she said. "He’d talk about different plays, how many goals they scored, where they were in the standings. And when he wasn’t talking about them, he was going home to watch soccer on TV."

Manchester United was Hocking’s favourite team, and many people wore the club’s red jersey — as well as countless other soccer outfits — to a celebration of his life held Jan. 28 at St. Norbert Community Centre.

"I was overwhelmed," Sheilagh Hocking said of the turnout, which filled the facility well beyond capacity. "The love and support the community has given us… I didn’t realize how many people’s lives he touched through soccer."

A trust account in Hocking’s memory has been established at the Assiniboine Credit Union. Funds raised will be used to purchase automatic external defibrillators for La Barriere Crossing School and the Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex.


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After 105-point loss, Utah high school team refuses to give up

WEST JORDAN — Kandice Amsden never really felt part of a team before.

The 16-year-old had managed soccer and volleyball teams, had played basketball at the YMCA, but this is different. This is life-changing, even if her West Ridge Academy basketball team is winless, and recently earned national attention by losing a game by 105 points.

Yes, 105 points.

Like many of the girls on the West Ridge Academy basketball team, Amsden not only hadn't been part of a team before, she also has had a pretty tough life. Over the last few years, the teenager from Houston began slipping into a depression. She didn't feel close to her family, had almost given up on herself and contemplated giving up on life.

"I wasn't happy with myself," Amsden said. "I didn't like myself."

Now she shoots, she defends, she hustles, and her teammates rely on her to give it her all. "We feel more like a family than just a team," Amsden said.

Most of these girls didn't trust anyone when they first came to Westridge, a boarding school for troubled teenagers. Now Amsden says she would trust any of her teammates with her life.

Even if they lost to Christian Heritage Academy by the lopsided score of 108-3 on Jan. 20. The loss set off a national debate about sportsmanship. It forced players, coaches and administrators at both schools to think about the reason they play and support high school sports.

For Amsden, the purpose is clear. It's changing her life for the better. Even if West Ridge lost to Christian Heritage again on Thursday, this time by the score of 62-7.

Team members said the final score didn't matter as long as they gave it their all. In fact many of the girls were excited for the rematch, Amsden among them.

When her parents sent her to West Ridge, she found a non-profit, non-denominational school with a spiritual mission that was supported in part by 18 Mormon service missionaries. The 83 students — 33 of them girls — stay only 10-to-12 months. That means the basketball team is different each year and many of the girls on the team have never played before and haven't trusted anyone in a long time. Many of the students have more than one issue they need to work through, like depression, substance abuse, mood disorder or ADHD.

"Now I see myself in the exact opposite way," Amsden said, after several months at West Ridge. "I see myself in a different light, and I feel true, authentic happiness."

Not only have her therapist and her teachers helped her feel this way, but so has being part of the basketball team.

"It's helped me realize I can do hard things."

That includes being positive and trying her best each game — even after the first blowout loss to Christian Heritage.

Christian Heritage averaged a basket every 36 seconds. West Ridge didn't score at all 'till the fourth quarter. The gap brought critics locally and nationally together to discuss what to do in a situation where one team is clearly more skilled than another.

Some said the Christian Heritage coach should have slowed down the game, put in second-string players and worked on other skills besides shooting. Others said teams should give it their all no matter what.

The executive director of the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, Tom Hursey, wrote about the Utah game in a newsletter last month.

"Do you think, as a coach of the team with 108 points, you could have done something to prevent this big disparity?" was the question he posed to other coaches in Michigan. "I hope so. If you ever are in this situation, I hope you have a plan on how to keep the score respectable."

He told the Deseret News such games are very rare and most coaches will do whatever it takes to keep the score reasonable.

But while most high school girls basketball games get up to around 50 points, there have been games in the past in which teams do cream the underdogs. Two seasons ago, Covenant School of Dallas, Texas, beat Dallas Academy 100-0. And several seasons ago, a girl's basketball team in New York, Murry Bergtraum High School, won 137-32 over Brandeis High School; the team's top scorer had 113 points that night.

Just last month in Utah, St. Joseph's girls' basketball team beat Mt. Vernon 98-10, and just a few days ago, Rockwell lost to South Summit 75-13. Rockwell, also winless, lost Thursday night to Layton Christian, 61-13.

One 27-year coach in North Carolina, Greg Grantham, said when a score is getting out of hand, he has his players work on things like passing the ball six times before shooting or on different plays or zone defense. While the president-elect of the National High School Basketball Coaches Association is not sure how any game could get so out of hand for a team to win by 100 points, he said he has been in games where a team has beaten his players by as much as 60 points and the other coach did everything he could to make the game more even.

"As coaches we have to be very mindful of the fact that our role in high school athletics is to teach life lessons they can take with them beyond high school," Grantham said.

Christian Heritage was also in a unique position during that game against West Ridge Jan. 20, officials there say. The Crusaders only had 11 players for both their varsity and junior varsity teams, and two were unable to play that night. Five played the entire JV game just the hour before.

The team was also used to playing fast-paced teams, said Dan Hopper, headmaster of the school, and has won every game this season. Hopper said the girls were told to slow down the pace but it was hard as it wasn't what they were used to. The scoreboard also wasn't working, so it was difficult to see the score, which was behind the backs of the coaches and the teams. Both teams said they didn't even know what the score was most of the game.

Christian Heritage also has players like Brittany Hurlburt, who has been playing basketball her whole life, while West Ridge only has one player who had played basketball before.

"I regret the score," Hurlburt said. "I think we all do. It's definitely not something to look at and be proud of."

West Ridge player Allie Horrocks, 15, said she was shocked the score didn't tear her down. Horrocks, who is known as "Smiley" on her team, said playing basketball keeps her happy and motivated despite the fact that her team is 0-13 this season and the closest they have gotten is within 34 points. She said without the girls on the team, life would be a lot harder for her.

"The reality is our girls are working on things that uniquely allow them to have a broader perspective on things," said Guy Hardcastle, admissions director at the school. "Whether they lose by 30 or 105 points, they are immediately transitioned to an environment that focuses on helping them improve as individuals. They get on the court and would love to win, but they are able to uniquely balance the reality that it's only a game."

Hardcastle said his school has only had an athletic program for six years. Yet he feels it gives the students at his school a unique opportunity to not only play an organized sport but to feel part of a team and learn to rely on and trust others.

In fact, the team's motto is based on the poem "Hold the Rope." It asks who they would trust, if they were hanging from a 20,000-foot cliff, to hold onto a rope that hangs between them and death.

Horrocks and Amsden say the motto is particularly meaningful to their team.

"Teamwork is very important to us," Horrocks said. "We have to trust each other, which is a challenge for some of us. We keep each other going. This is something we have to go through together."

Jamie Keefer, athletic director and the girls' head coach, said his teams at West Ridge appreciate being part of athletics, perhaps more so than other teams he has worked with at other schools.

"It's a way out for them," he said. "It's an opportunity to leave their counseling and issues behind."

He said parents often tell him what a difference being on a team is in their child's life. He also gets texts and notes under his door from players thanking him for being their coach, sometimes years after players have left.

"I don't need a regional championship to be a good coach," Keefer said. "I just want to make a difference in these boys' and girls' lives."

Horrocks and others say Keefer has done just that, encouraging them to be positive and do the best they can no matter what the scoreboard or critics say.

On Thursday night before the second game between the schools, the West Ridge girls and Keefer gathered in the locker room to discuss strategy.

"We have to trust each other," Keefer said. "I'm not sure we're there yet. Whatever happens tonight, we're still going to have the same team tomorrow."

The players and Keefer also joked that getting four points would be a win for them. Encouraging words were written on the white board behind the coach: "Let's always do our best no matter what," and "We can do this. Be positive."

The girls huddled before the game, hands in, and cheered on the count of three: "Hold the Rope."

At most games, the girls are greeted with a few claps from some parents and workers at the school. This game was different. The home team's bleachers were filled to the brim. A couple dozen more fans spilled over to the visitors' side. Others watched at the door. Many fans were already standing before the varsity game started. Cheers were so loud it was hard to hear the announcer read a player's name before the game.

"These girls have never played with this type of crowd and cheering before," said Ken Allen, executive director of West Ridge, as he greeted people like former NBA player and BYU basketball star Shawn Bradley, a member of the school's board. "There is usually about 10 people at their games."

There were more than 10 times that on Thursday night.

Within the first 30 seconds, a Christian Heritage player made a beautiful 3-pointer. But after a couple of minutes, Amsden was fouled and went to the free-throw line, where she stood thinking, "You got this. You got this. You got this."

She missed the first, made the second and wound up the team's top scorer, collecting five of West Ridge's seven points. West Ridge scored in all but one quarter and Christian Heritage averaged just 15.5 points a quarter. Its coach, Rob McGill, said it was hard to not have his girls practice their normal plays, ones he believes they will have to use in the state playoffs. He told his team to mainly work on 3-pointers — two of his players made a total of 13 that night.

Fans could tell both teams worked hard during the game, many red in the face and panting during much of it.

"We don't give up," Jessica Christensen said. "All that matters is that we give it our all."


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If you ever get lost in the game and need to reconnect, you can go to Old Trafford or Nou Camp or a similar shrine of skill, or you can go and watch the purity and raw emotion of young kids.

Long live the Notre Dame Academy Spiders!


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Interview of Prof. Vijay Barse, Founder, Slum Soccer


First and foremost Mr. Barse could you please tell us what Slum Soccer is all about?

We function with the ultimate aim of reaching out to the Indian homeless using football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment.

What inspired you to use football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment?

The unbridled joy on the faces of a few street children kicking a broken bucket around a slushy ground in an impromptu game of football, blissfully unaware of the pelting rain in the midst of a sudden rainstorm, prompted our founder Dr. Vijay Barse to start this project. The ‘beautiful game’ is a unique and yet, a perfect vehicle that transcends race, religion, language and gender to bring about a change in the lives of street dwellers.

It’s very difficult to run a program like this. How do you make your programs work?

We work with the ultimate aim of reaching out to the Indian homeless using football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment... What started as simple weekend sessions has bloomed into full fledged football coaching camps, educational and healthcare workshops and societal development programs bringing a positive influence to the lives of nearly 70,000 men, women and children in over 63 districts all around the country.

Our typical participant demographic includes the homeless, recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, children of commercial sex workers, slum dwelling kids and youth, street paper vendors and the like.

Who do you basically rope in to coach these kids?

We believe in the concept of promotion from within and past members of the Indian team come back and are hired as coaches. A few of them have been trained and certified by Adidas and Coerver Coaching and they pass on their expertise to other coaches in camps organized by us.

It’s your organization who took India to the Homeless World Cup. Can you tell us about the Homeless World Cup and your boys’ progress in it?

This year was also the first time that Slum Soccer sent in 2 separate men’s and women’s teams to the World Cup. The women’s team did us massively proud by winning the prestigious Fair Play Award. We’re all really looking forward to this year’s World Cup in Paris.

Running such a huge programes will require lots of investment/funds? Where do you get the funds? Are the funds you get adequate to run the program and how do you intent to get more funding?

Most of our funding comes from our international partner organizations. In 2008, Slum Soccer was accepted as a member of the Street Football Network, a strategic alliance partner of FIFA. We received funds after being selected as a part of the Football for Hope program. Partnerships with Sports Consultant giant Alexander Ross and Barclays Premier League side Tottenham Hotspurs have also given us the ability to take our team to the World Cup every year. In addition, the Barse family and other individual donors also generously contribute to the cause





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For the Love of Soccer and a Lasting Sisterhood


The women of the Vakhegula Vakhegula (Grannies Grannies) soccer team, ranging in age from 49 to 84, warmed up before a game last month near Tzaneen, South Africa.

Five days before the start of the World Cup, the stars of the celebration were a soccer team — a group of 35 women ages 49 to 84. After the speeches and ceremonies, the team, Vakhegula Vakhegula (Grannies Grannies), would play an exhibition game.

Beka Ntsanwisi founded Vakhegula Vakhegula five years ago as a way of providing inspiration for older women. The team usually plays its league games on Saturdays, but this was a special day with the president coming. And Ntsanwisi wanted to have a word with the president.

Ntsanwisi’s decision to found the team came out of her own sense of personal challenge.

In 2003, she learned she had colon cancer; by 2005, she was using a wheelchair. In the process of her treatment, Ntsanwisi visited a number of public hospitals and was disturbed by the level of treatment of elderly patients, especially women. Many were despondent or confused. She thought that regular exercise would be beneficial. That exercise evolved into soccer.

When they were girls, playing sports was not a realistic option.

“In my generation, it was not like it is today,” Ntsanwisi said. “When you played soccer, you were a little bit afraid. Our culture was like that. Our culture would tell you that a woman has to be home cooking for the husband or cooking for the family.”

The team’s leading scorer is Beatrice Tshabala, a relative baby at 49. Her nickname on the team is Lionel Messi, after the Argentine star.

She recalled how she saw the team practicing on her way home from work. She stopped the car and went to talk to the players. She asked what they were doing and if she could join.

When Tshabala’s husband died in 2005, the Grannies became her extended family to share the grief and sorrow.

“Even if we’re not playing, I go to their house, we talk and pray and whatever,” Tshabala said. “So at church I’m busy, at work and then with the grannies, I don’t have time to sit down and mourn every day.”

For Onica Ndzhovela, the Grannies helped her spirit from being broken. She had 12 children; 8 of them died.

“People were saying I was mad,” Ndzhovela said. “I was not mad; I had a lot of stress. It’s not easy to lose eight.”

The Grannies became her family; the soccer competition became an emotional outlet.


Members carrying gear to a game.



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I have no idea where to put this so decided why not here. It's about two people who just did something world class. The first which most of us saw was Wayne Rooney's ridiculous bicycle kick late in the derby the other week.



The other was ex-USA WNT player Julie Foudy's commentary:

I have decided that the only fitting [goal] celebration would have been for Rooney to walk straight off the field into the locker room and not return. Thank you very much. Game over. They really should have just stopped the game right there. (I'd bet even my Manchester City friends would agree.)

In fact, I don't think I would have ever played again after a goal like that. I would have retired and traded in my cars for bikes, and if memories of that iconic moment ever began to fade I would have ridden my bike around town every day, waving at passers-by, maybe even wearing a cape.

That, is almost as good as the goal.

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Pineville soccer player Ross Barron (with ball) scored the only goal as Lafayette won, 8-1. Barron is a senior with Down syndrome.


Tompkins: Barron's lone Pineville goal in loss one for the ages

Pineville High School lost its opening round boys soccer playoff game last weekend to No. 3 seed Lafayette, 8-1, but celebrated afterward.

The winners celebrated, too, but not so much because they won. They celebrated more for the same reason that all of the 100 or so fans at Lafayette High's Stadium stood and cheered -- and cried.

They celebrated something bigger than a soccer win, even a playoff win. The players, coaches and fans for both teams celebrated the essence of sportsmanship, and they rejoiced for Ross Barron, a senior with Down syndrome who scored the lone goal for Pineville in the final game of his career.

Ross had dreamed since his childhood of playing soccer for Pineville, said Rebels coach Grant Eloi, who played soccer at Pineville with Ross' older brother several years ago. When Eloi became the coach a few years ago, he gave Ross that chance.

"Last year, as a junior, he played mostly for the junior varsity team and in some varsity games when we were either ahead or behind by a lot. He scored a penalty kick against Buckeye in a JV game," Eloi said.

Flash forward to last week's playoff on the road against a Lafayette team that is among the state's elite soccer teams.

"The game was going really well for us," recalled Lafayette coach Jeremy Cart, "and I saw Grant put (Ross) in with maybe 12 minutes left. I went over and asked him if he was a Down syndrome kid, and he told me he was, and he told me about him."

Cart, with Eloi's permission, pulled his starters out and put in the reserves, but not before telling them to "work with" Pineville on helping Ross realize a dream.

"I was just so impressed that Grant had a player like that in their program," Cart said. "What he's doing for that kid is super special."

Ross was put in the game at a forward position, and his teammates did what they could to get him the ball. He missed his first shot on goal and again on his second try, but on his third try, just like in a Hollywood script, he scored with a crisp kick that ripped through the goal to the net.

The crowd, mostly Lafayette fans, erupted.

Ross ran around and started cheering and he gave an intense fist pump, "and then he kind of stopped and looked at his coach, as if for affirmation," said Cart.

"I was crying at that point," Eloi confessed. "I clapped and gave him a thumbs up and said, 'Good job, Ross! You did good!'"

"There wasn't a dry eye in the stadium," said the 38-year-old Cart, a veteran coach in his fourth year as the head coach at Lafayette, which has several seniors from last year's Class 5A state finalist team that lost in the final minutes of the title game on a penalty kick to Jesuit, 2-1.

"My seniors," Cart said, "were the biggest cheerleaders for him on the sideline."

Dustin McConnell is a 6-foot-1, 145-pound Rebel teammate into whose arms the hefty Ross jumped (and knocked down) to celebrate scoring on a penalty kick in Pineville's last regular season game two weeks ago.

"The team revolved around him," McConnell said. "His positive personality, for somebody that has been through so much, it's ... it's hard to have a negative attitude around him.

"The coach from Lafayette," McConnell went on, "is one of the nicest and best coaches I've ever met. The sportsmanship they showed was incredible. Ross is on the sideline crying afterwards, and all the Lafayette guys are patting him on the back. That spoke a lot to me about their class."

"It was the right thing to do," Cart said.

"It was special for him, and it was special for everybody. He deserved a little reward."



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A different kind of soccer mom

Mercury News

By Ray Hacke

When Sulma Plancarte walked into her family's small West San Jose apartment at age 16 and broke the news of her pregnancy, she feared that her future as a soccer player was over.

Instead, her father told her: "Don't give up your dream. You want to go to college and play soccer."


Now 18 and the mother of a 1-year-old, the high school senior not only is still playing soccer but is starring on a Del Mar team that features another player like her. Zuleyni Huizache is a high-scoring senior forward with a son, and she and Plancarte have led Del Mar to an 18-0-2 record and a berth in the playoffs that begin next week.

At a time in life that often is difficult under the best of circumstances, the teenagers are dedicated to accomplishing something longtime observers say is very rare: playing high school sports while learning to be a parent.

Just staying in school is a challenge for many. According to a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 30 percent of high school girls who dropped out cited pregnancy or parenthood as a reason. The same study found that among women who had a child before 18, only 38 percent earned a high school diploma by age 22.

"My wife told me I can't be so stiff-necked with them," said Ken Padia, the coach of the Del Mar girls soccer team. "I have to bend a little bit because they're dealing with things that are different from the typical high school kid. "... What does the typical high school kid worry about: 'What am I going to wear? What am I going to have for lunch? Can I get a date for the dance?' Their situation is obviously different."

Huizache is the team's leading scorer, with 30 goals in 20 games. Plancarte is next with 22. Both hope soccer will lead to college opportunities so they can provide better lives for their sons.


"I have to think about a higher standard of living," said Huizache, whose son, Santiago, was born in May 2008. "I want my son to do a lot better than I did. I want to be the one to prove to him that he can do it."

As for Plancarte, she wasn't sure she could manage this -- until her family rallied around her and vowed to help.

"Sulma," her father told her, "everything is possible in this life. You just continue with school, continue with soccer. We'll worry about him."

Growing up fast

As a matter of conscience, neither Huizache nor Plancarte felt that giving up her child was an option.

"I never would have thought to not keep him," said Huizache, who got pregnant her freshman year. "Me not taking responsibility wouldn't be right."

And both girls say the responsibilities of parenthood have forced them to grow up fast.

"At first I thought it would be easy -- I could just take care of him and go to sleep," said Plancarte, whose son, Alex, turned 1 this month. "But I can't go out with my friends or go to the movies because I've got to be with him. I've got to get up in the middle of the night. I've got to give him baths. I never thought it would be this hard."

With neither father in the picture, both young mothers depend on their families for financial support and child care, especially when they need to do homework or prepare for games.

All of which makes their prowess on the soccer pitch more remarkable.

Rachel Schauer, one of Del Mar's captains, says what Huizache and Plancarte are doing is "inspiring." "It's hard enough already to focus on school and bring your 'A' game every game," she said. "They go home, raise a baby, do their homework, then get up early in the morning and do it all over again."

Family support

Del Mar is part of the Campbell Union High School District, which doesn't keep statistics on how many of its students are mothers. Del Mar doesn't offer special programs for teen moms because of a lack of funding.

"There aren't a lot of programs left in the county that do that," said Terry Peluso, the district's executive director of student services.

Schools in the Campbell district offer classes that help students with parenting, careers and life skills. But Peluso said family support is one of the most important factors in helping teen mothers graduate.

Thanks in large part to their families, both girls are on track to graduate -- Huizache this year and Plancarte a year later because she took time away during her pregnancy. Soccer has played a part, too, in helping each of them raise their grades. Both now carry a solid C average.

"The whole soccer team has study sessions once a week," Huizache said, "and they've really helped me with what I've needed help with."

Plancarte's father, Guillermo, admits that he had concerns about the juggling act his daughter, and their family, was about to undertake.

But, he said, somehow it is working out. Certainly, it is better than Sulma feared in the beginning.

"She became very depressed -- she didn't think she was ever going to play again," Guillermo said through a translator. "I just told her to have the child, and we would move forward."

Forty days after the birth, Guillermo said, he took his daughter to the park and soccer was back in her life.

And now he can't wait to begin coaching baby Alex.

"I'm just waiting one more year," Guillermo said. "He's going to be good."



And anyone who thinks Mom's can't get it done:

Kim Clijsters, first mother N.1 in World Tennis History



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If you have a couple of minutes, this is a great read about victories.


These Boots Are Made for Talking

It’s a real kick when the "you" in youth sports is you. Do yourself a favor and sign up.

By John Weyler, Aliso Veijo Patch

One of the Sous Chef’s childhood best pals “friended” me recently on Facebook, and it brought home a flood of memories of the 10 years I coached girls youth soccer in Mission Viejo.

The Sous Chef, our youngest daughter, and Legs played AYSO together on teams I coached starting when they were kindergartners until they were teenagers. The Sous Chef and I went on to the West Coast Football Club, and then she played at Capistrano Valley High School before turning in her shin guards for a Shun knife.

Her freshman year—when she set an unofficial school record with about a dozen yellow cards (the coach presented her with a Crunch candy bar as a trophy at the postseason banquet)—was the peak of her fútbol career. The Cougar varsity team had two junior national team players and five California Olympic development squad members that year, obviously the heyday of South Orange County girls’ soccer.

As just about everyone with a kid knows, youth sports are a wacky, sometimes wicked, but mostly wonderful, world. We had a great run, and it was one of the most rewarding times of my life, despite the fact that virtually every weekend of our lives for a decade revolved around kids chasing balls. (You’d think I could have taught the Bee-choodle to do that by now.)

I coached some great Region 84 All-Star teams, some great spring select teams, some great and some not-so-great recreation league teams and some good club teams. There were tears of joy and tears of pain … like the time I got my finger caught taking down the E-Z UP.

There was the thrill of victory but never really the agony of defeat. And that was one of the greatest things about coaching girls.

Oh, they can frustrate, no doubt. Let’s just say they’re easily distracted. But they make incredible teammates, and they’re able to keep things in perspective. A couple of examples of what I’m talking about:

Our Region 84 All-Star team lost in overtime of the championship game of a tournament in Goodyear, AZ, to … another Region 84 All-Star team. (The local folks weren’t exactly happy about the mix-up that led to us both entering—and then both being accepted—to compete in the same tournament.)

About 10 minutes after the game, two of our players were hugging and sobbing. Then I heard one whisper, “What are you wearing to dinner tonight?”

Ah, perspective.

I like to call this story the F-Word Incident, but it’s not exactly what you’re thinking.

“She Called Tiffany Fat”

Our spring select team was playing an opponent in Laguna Niguel when one of my best midfielders, a hard-working player who hardly ever even committed a foul, was closing in on a loose ball with an opposing player. They got to the ball at nearly the same time, just as our player raised her fist—as if in a solidarity salute—to smack the opponent in the side of the head.

She rightfully received a red card and was ejected.

I pulled her aside and said, “What was that about?”

She looked me straight in the eye and said: “She called Tiffany fat.”

Good teammate? You could take this young lady to war.

Then there was the year we turned Region 84 on its ear. Coach John had this idea that it would be a great experience for the girls, now 12, to play against some competition that wasn’t so, well, South County. So I checked into joining a spring league in Long Beach that hosted teams from many surrounding areas. Long Beach league officials were happy to have us, and the Region 84 commissioner reluctantly gave her OK. So I recruited a team, telling parents that our home games would be in Long Beach—there was no way Region 84 would provide time on one of its precious fields for a renegade team. The girls were totally into this idea, though, and almost everyone agreed to play.

Then a few local coaches got wind of it and went absolutely bonkers. There was screaming at a coach’s meeting. One guy stomped out in protest.

But the Mission Viejo VooDoo played in the Long Beach league that spring, and it was pretty much what we bargained for. Not every parent on the other team had a brand-new minivan. Not every player had a brand-new pair of shoes. And skin colors spanned the spectrum of mankind.

We finished tied for second behind an undefeated team from Hawthorne, not a single member of which was a blonde with a ponytail.

We were playing in Downey one afternoon and trailing, 1-0, in the second half when the Sous-Chef-to-be hit the post with a shot that caromed out of bounds. A lady on the opposing sideline had been borderline obnoxious throughout the match. Then she decided to take a running leap over the boundary:

A Real Eye-Opener

“Whattsa matter, you little rich *****es, can’t you buy a goal?” she screamed in glee.

One of our players stopped in front of me as play went back the other way, her eyes as wide as saucers. “Coach John,” she said, breathlessly. “She called us the ‘b-word’ … and she’s a mom!”

Just as I had planned, the Long Beach league turned out to be a real eye-opener.

A new commissioner took over Region 84 that year, one of those guys who was not happy that some of Mission Viejo’s best players were wearing VooDoo green and black that spring instead of the city’s blue and gold.

The next year, I ended up with a rec team that featured my daughter and Legs (her mom was my assistant) and not much else in terms of soccer skill or knowledge. I attribute this to pure coincidence; players are rated, and league officials do everything in their power to create evenly balanced teams … and Kadafi has his people’s best interests at heart.

We lost all our league games, were subsequently seeded last in the playoffs and faced the best team—coached by one of the region’s all-star coaches—in the first round.

Almost the entire game had been played on our half of the field, and we were trailing, 1-0, in the fourth quarter when Legs sprinted down the wing and fired a 15-yard laser into the top corner of the net. With a minute to play, the Sous-Chef-to-be stole the ball near midfield, sent it between the legs of the sweeper, raced around her, caught up to the ball and one-timed a shot past a diving goalkeeper.

The whistle sounded, and the girls cried. My assistant cried. A lot of parents were crying. (OK, my eyes were a little watery, too, but my finger was still throbbing from that E-Z UP injury.)

Our opponents had 29 shots on goal that night; we had three. But the two that ended up in the net produced the most satisfying victory I ever experienced as a soccer coach. Well, on the field, anyway.

Most of the greatest victories came at practice, or in a hotel lobby, or in the SUV on the way to games. One-on-one talks with girls who giggle and avert their eyes but thrive on encouragement, want guidance and guidelines, feel free to be themselves in the security of a team and blossom like flowers when they gain confidence in their abilities.

If it’s hard to imagine a kids’ soccer game bringing you to tears, consider this note in a Christmas card I received from a player that year:

“You are one of the most important adults in my life. I love you as my own father and your influence has been a big part of my life. I’m glad we’ve shared so many special times together and I hope that we have a good relationship our whole lives.”

Youth leagues always need volunteers. Do yourself a favor and sign up.


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Terry Fox's famous run did more than raise money, it taught us what heroes are made of


Runners of every stripe need to overcome obstacles and fight their way through a certain amount of pain. That’s notable if you’re a first-time runner, commendable if you’re training for your first marathon, impressive if you’re an Olympic athlete. But if you’re Terry Fox, well, there just isn’t an adjective in the Canadian vocabulary to describe it.

"You can be an Olympic athlete and be a horrible person — I’ve met plenty of Olympians who’ve won medals and are awful," silver medallist Adam Kreek says from St. John’s, where he recently joined eight other Olympic and Paralympic athletes to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. "Terry was not only a hero because he ran across the country, but he’s the consummate Canadian — humble, gracious and able to endure."

Fox, who dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean back on April 6, 1980, ran 5,373 kilometres, or a marathon a day for 143 often rainy days. It was the furthest, by far, that he had ever run. Before losing his leg to cancer, Fox only ran to keep fit for rugby, soccer and basketball. But when a malignant tumour left him an amputee, he ran his first long-distance race in Prince George, B.C. It was 1979, and he finished dead last in the 17-mile race. And then he had an idea.

"He came home that day and told the family that he wouldn’t be running the Vancouver Marathon. He was going to run across Canada instead," says Fred Fox, Terry’s older brother, who oversees The Terry Fox Foundation, a cancer research charity that has raised more than $500-million. "He was just an average kid, no different from anyone else, and he had to work his damnedest to get every inch of mileage he achieved."

In today’s running world — where one in every 33 Canadians owns running shoes — there are clinics to help get you started and specialized chips to place in the soles of your sneakers to keep track of your distance, calories burned and your times. But as we move toward race season, we should remember that running also requires hard work, spirit and dedication. And that’s why even the most casual weekend warriors still find inspiration in Terry Fox and his incredible run.

"You have to use your willpower to complete all your runs," says Sidney Moss, 79, a five-day-a-week runner in Montreal, still running after triple bypass surgery and an aneurysm of the aorta. "Running is never easy, but when you need inspiration, look at Terry’s feat."

The event earlier this week in St. John's brought out droves of people in the cold and rain. Those who were there say the conversations weren’t about split times or sneakers and that nobody was complaining about how much they train. Instead, it was a celebration of character, one that has as much to do with life as it does with running.

"I’m a pretty loud guy, pretty outgoing, but this morning I wanted to take everything in," says Greg Westlake, a Paralympic athlete who had both of his feet amputated at 10 months old. "There’s a million athletes and a million celebrities, but no other Terry. He taught everyone not to quit."



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I've posted this one here before but it's never had as good a frame. Still turns my eyes into fountains every time I see it.

The key quote from the piece is "It's a great moment when someone has character to step up and do the right thing at the right time."

Mallory Holtman is what being an athlete is all about. Not million dollar contracts and shoe deals - using your gifts to inspire the world.

The National Sportsmanship Awards were given out yesterday in the United States and among them included:

Camp Kilpatrick Mustangs basketball: Coach Kurt Keller built a championship team out of Bloods and Crips, members of rival gangs assigned to a detention center in California.

Manchester (Conn.) High School wrestling team: After falling behind in the first six matches, coach Lou LaGuardia forfeited the final four, in which his opponents from East Catholic had no wrestlers. The forfeits resulted in no scoring, giving the match to East Catholic.

Northwestern (Minn.) College volleyball team: Players adhered to an honor system in which they self-reported errors in officiating that should have resulted in a point for opponents. Other teams followed their lead in honor calls.

Tyler Parks and Mike Smith: Cross country runners at Southern New Hampshire University, the pair cut short their own runs — and hopes for a medal — in the New England Championship to help a rival from Boston University who had collapsed on the course.

Roncalli (Ind.) High softball: After going 2 1/2 years without a loss, the team forfeited a game rather than blow out an opponent that showed up with two hats, five balls, no helmets and players who had never played before. The day turned into a clinic for Roncalli's opponent and a teaching moment for both teams.

Andrea Scheese, Concordia (Ore.) University: A single mom at 19, and seeking the education to get a better job, Scheese returned to college on an athletic scholarship and became an NAIA All-American in track and cross country.

Albany (N.Y.) University men's basketball team: Scheduled to play Xavier (Ohio) just after Christmas, the team gave a ride to the Musketeers' Mark Lyons, who had been visiting family nearby and was stranded because of bad weather. Lyons scored a career-high six 3-pointers and led the Xavier to victory.

Rick Wallace: A teacher, coach and administrator at Blocker (Texas) Middle School, Wallace donated a kidney to a former player, Tyreese Williams.

Tom Walter: The baseball coach at Wake Forest University, Walter donated a kidney to one of his current players, Kevin Jordan.

Grant Whybark, University of St. Francis (Ill.) golf: With his entire team already qualified for the NAIA championship, Whybark intentionally hit a ball 40 yards to the right of the fairway and finished with a double bogey in the final of the individual qualifying tournament, giving the title and a spot at nationals to rival Seth Doran of Olivet Nazarene.

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Heroes of a different kind today.

Delray high school soccer star dies following Sunday car accident; boyfriend in serious condition

Monday, Feb. 14, 2011


Melissa Bergstein was co-valedictorian of American Heritage High School, and in 2009, she was named an All-American player by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

DELRAY BEACH — Melissa Bergstein, manager of American Heritage's varsity wrestling team, was supposed to be dyeing the team members' hair blond after school Monday.

Her boyfriend, 17-year-old Mateo Londono, and two other wrestlers last weekend had qualified for this week's state championship meet in Lakeland .

On Monday afternoon, the wrestlers planned to go to Hair Cuttery on Linton Boulevard to have their hair dyed, because Bergstein couldn't do it herself. The popular 18-year-old, also a soccer star at the school, died just after noon from injuries she sustained in a car accident early Sunday.

"A silly, stupid, horrible accident took a beautiful girl from us on Valentine's Day," Matt Morse, American Heritage dean of students and varsity wrestling coach, told about 60 members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes after school Monday.

"I love you guys," he told them. "I don't want you guys getting hurt."

As Morse spoke, Londono, who had been driving the car at the time of the fatal accident, remained at Delray Medical Center with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, Londono was driving a 2005 white Nissan eastbound on Lantana Road around 1:55 a.m. Sunday when, "for reasons unknown at this time," the car struck the median and traveled another 50 to 60 feet before slamming into a palm tree. A 13-year-old also was in the car, but Davis did not release the name. The crash is under investigation.

Bergstein's friends, including her soccer teammates, visited her Sunday at the hospital. They met again Monday after hearing of her death.

Jessica Vosseteig, assistant varsity soccer coach, said the 32 girls on the team were in shock and distraught.

"They can't function right now," she said. "Some were crying, some were in shock, some were angry."

After school Monday, it was clear that Bergstein was loved by a lot of people at American Heritage. She was a daughter, an older sister, a co-valedictorian, captain and outside defender on the soccer team, and manager of the varsity wrestling team - as the wrestlers described her, "just one of the guys."

In 2009, she was named an All-America player by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. She didn't play soccer this season because of a chronic back injury.

Vosseteig said Bergstein, a four-year varsity player, "was as tough as can be. She was not letting anyone get by her."

Bergstein was also a member of Team Boca, a soccer association in Boca Raton, since age 9 - a year after she started playing the sport.

She also was a big part of American Heritage's wrestling team, and some of its 20 members gathered to remember her Monday.

"You could feel a sense of energy when she came in the room," said Michael Larkin, 15.

The team plans to wear shirts at the state meet with "Londono 171" (his weight class) on the back and a heart with "Melissa" on the front.

Londono, captain of the wrestling team, also is an honor student. He and Bergstein were in love, according to their friends, and he had given her a ring.

Morse and Bergstein's father told Londono of Bergstein's death at the hospital Monday afternoon.

"It was the hardest thing I ever had to do," Morse said. "We held him and he cried. That kid loved that girl so much."

Bergstein planned to attend the University of Colorado next year; Londono was looking at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Montana.

"We were trying to see if he wanted to go there to be close with Melissa," Morse said of the Montana school. "But I think he will probably just go to FAU now."


"The song is based on a true story. I met a man in an arena when we were on tour just before sound check, a nice soft spoken guy, who told me that his son had aspirations to play pro hockey and had a scholarship, or had been close to one in the States. He asked me if we were going to play "Boy Inside The Man" that night and said that his son had been a big fan. I asked him if his son would be there, not realizing the man had been using the past tense. That was when he told me his son had died in a car accident that past summer... I felt for that guy, his story hit me hard. Some songs are hard labour, but the best songs are born ... I carried that story with me for quite some time. Ken and I rented a house to write and pre-produce Victory Day. With the exception of the music equipment, we kept it bare and empty, not even a phone - nothing, like a Buddhist retreat or a monastery. In the upstairs room I simply kept a mat, tape recorder and guitar, that's all. Ken was producing the Tragically Hip at the time, so sometimes he wouldn't show up till late in the evening. I'd go into that room in the afternoon for an hour or so and meditate ... and sometimes I'd fall asleep in the silence. One day I woke up, picked up the guitar, turned on the tape recorder and played and sang "Big League" in one pass. One pass, and there it was ... born. I'm as proud of that song as anything I've ever written. It's Canadiana, and even though it rocks, it's written in a true Canadian folk narrative style. But most importantly, I hope it cuts to the heart of life, love, loss and family ... I think it says something about the hopes and dreams we put into our kids' heads, and the transience and preciousness of life."

We often get lost and lose our way as athletes. But if you ever need to come back home, Melissa Bergstein and Tom Cochrane can put the fire of life back in your veins.

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These young Italian women explain women's soccer about as eloquently as anyone ever has:

Italy spread the word about women's football

by Richard Aikman

Published: Saturday 4 June 2011, 13.27CET

"We don't play for money, we play for the love of the game," was the message from Italy's women's under-19 team as they visited a high school in Rimini on Friday.


Italy's Benedetta De Angelis signs a T-shirt while meeting pupils at the Istituto Tecnico Statale Per Geometri Odone Belluzzi in Rimini

Friday was no ordinary day for the pupils of one secondary school in Rimini. Word had already got out that the Istituto Tecnico Statale per Geometri Odone Belluzzi would be receiving some special guests. By the time the eight members of Italy's women's under-19 team arrived, an expectant 150-strong crowd had gathered in the gym to greet the Azzurrine.

The girls were ushered into the room to great applause and invited to sit on a bench in the middle of the large room to field questions. To begin with none of the students had the courage to ask anything, but Benedetta De Angelis, the GS Roma CF defender, broke the ice by standing up, taking the microphone and addressing the throng.

"Hello everyone, my name is Benedetta," said the 19-year-old. "I started playing football when I was little, because I have four older brothers and used to play outside in the street with them. It's not easy if you're female and want to play football at a high level. I had to move away from my home in Abruzzo to play for Roma because I wanted to play in Serie A."

As part of an initiative by the Italian Football Federation [FIGC] to help promote the womens' game, each of the eight UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finalists have been affiliated to a school in the area. Odone Belluzzi had the good fortune to be matched up with their own national team.

Before long, several pupils plucked up the courage to ask questions about the standard of the women's game, where to play football if you are female – and in attacking midfielder Elisa Lecce's case – what her phone number was.

"Playing at this level means you have to make a lot of sacrifices," said defender Cecilia Salvai. "We cannot always be out late like our friends, we miss out on a lot, but the joy of being a footballer makes it all worthwhile." Lecce is the perfect example of someone who has to be especially driven in order to play for ASD Napoli CF – it requires a two-and-a-half hour round trip four times a week.

"To squeeze everything into your day you have to be very organised," added defender Francesca Vitale. "It's not easy juggling school, training, homework and matches and it doesn't leave much time for friends. I had to miss out on a lot of things and we've always got our books with us at training camp."

Assistant coach Giorgia Brenzan, a former Italy captain and two-time FIFA World Cup finalist, then took the floor to thank the FIGC for their commitment to the girls, which includes providing tutors to help the Azzurrine combine their studies with training. She also reminded students that her side had already qualified for the semi-finals and next year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup finals in Uzbekistan with a match to spare.

The final word, though, went to De Angelis, whose heartfelt words were proof enough of just how determined she has had to be to make strides in the sport she loves. "The problem with women's football is the culture surrounding it. Families don't consider football a female sport and only take their sons to football practice.

"We don't play for money, we don't play for fame; we play for the love of the game. We have a passion for football – that is why we play. And if you don't believe us, come and see for yourselves against Belgium at Bellaria on Sunday."


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Irena Kirszenstein-Szewińska, née Irena Kirszenstein (born May 24, 1946, Leningrad [now St. Petersburg], Russia, U.S.S.R.), Polish sprinter who dominated women’s athletics for nearly two decades. Between 1964 and 1976, Kirszenstein-Szewińska earned seven Olympic medals, tying the record of Australian Shirley Strickland de la Hunty for most medals won by a woman in Olympic athletics competition. An exceptional performer in hurdles and the long jump, she was considered to be the greatest female athlete of her generation.

Kirszenstein was born in Russia, although her parents were Polish, and the family returned to Poland when she was still a child. She was 18 years old when she competed at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, earning a gold medal in the 4 × 100-metre relay and silver medals in the 200-metre run and the long jump. In 1967 she married Janusz Szewińska, a sports photographer. At the 1968 Games in Mexico City, she won the 200-metre run in world record time (22.5 seconds) and earned a bronze medal in the 100-metre event.

The birth of her son Andrej in 1970 and a severe ankle injury kept Kirszenstein-Szewińska from training for a year, but she was able to recover in time to attend the 1972 Olympics in Munich. There she took the bronze medal in the 200-metre run. In 1973 her husband became her coach, and she decided to compete in a new event—the 400-metre sprint. The following year in Warsaw she became the first woman to run 400 metres in less than 50 seconds. At the 1976 Games in Montreal, she won a gold medal in the 400 metres in world record time (49.28 seconds). Her Olympic career was ended by a muscle strain at the 1980 Games in Moscow.

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Amazing. We celebrate the multi-sport athletes like Deon Sanders, Clara Hughes and Eric Heiden, but she had seven medals in five different events. Looking at her muscle definition it all makes a lot more sense. Lisa De Vanna is likely the fastest international player and her legs are incredibly defined, but Kirszenstein takes it to a whole new level. It would be really interesting to hear about her training regimen.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Back to a different type of Cup winners.

JOHN REILLY: Ryan Seacrest and true American idols

I’ve been coaching youth sports for almost ten years and I’ve tried to do the right things. Teach the kids what was important. Be good sports. Show class in victory. Dignity in defeat. Shake the referee’s hand after every match.

Only compared to Bernadette Arizmendi and Hugo Bustamante, I stink.

Arizmendi is the head coach of the Cypress Cyclones – a U10 girls’ soccer team in southern California. In the spring of 2009, her team squared off against the Huntington Park American Eagles in the sectional finals for the right to represent the region in the state tournament. Her team lost a tightly fought contest and her kids were devastated.

As she was lamenting later that afternoon, Arizmendi received an unexpected call from the league coordinator who wanted to share some good news. The Eagles were renouncing their position as the region’s representative because they couldn’t afford the $3000 required for travel expenses. Arizmendi was instructed to have her team ready. And she was thrilled.

Just not for the reasons you might imagine.

The next morning, she gathered her players at the soccer field. Only on this day, she had something bigger than a tournament game to discuss. She described the situation facing the Eagles. She asked her players to vote. Do we accept this invitation? Yea or Nay?

Unanimously, her players voted No. They weren’t the best team in the district – this had been determined fairly and squarely on the pitch. But if they surrendered the opportunity to attend, the spot reserved for the district could be forfeited. So that’s when Arizmendi, Assistant Coach Bustamante and a group of wonderful and honorable 10-year old girls began to brainstorm ways to make this right.

Arizmendi and Bustamante asked the parents to solicit donations from local businesses. The kids initiated a letter writing campaign asking for help. Nike. Addidas. David Beckham. They reached for every star.

“We just felt a valuable lesson could be taught to our daughters and their teammates,” Arizmendi told me. “They were all on board. They felt very good about what we were trying to make happen for the kids from Huntington Park.”

Amazingly one little message, from one little girl, slipped through the bureaucratic cracks and made its way into the hands of American Idol superstar Ryan Seacrest. Next thing you knew, Arizmendi was live on Seacrest’s nationally syndicated radio program, imploring assistance from anyone within earshot.

“Ryan was awesome,” Arizmendi said. “He even donated $1000 out of his own pocket!”

One of Seacrest’s contacts was Shelby Russell, Marketing Director of the LA Sol, the women’s pro soccer team in Los Angeles. She was so moved by the efforts of Arizmendi and Bustamante on behalf of their rivals, that she arranged for a charter bus to transport the Eagles to the tournament and reserved first-class hotel rooms for them to stay.

The Eagles gratefully accepted this generous offer. Under one condition. They would attend the state championship tournament only if the Cypress Cyclones were invited along as their guests of honor. And an everlasting kinship was bonded.

Tragically, this sorority of sisters manifested under a devastating set of circumstances three weeks later when Bustamante was gunned down in his place of employment by a co-worker, leaving behind his 10-year old daughter and 4-year old son. As Arizmendi tried explaining the sense of this to a group of young girls during Bustamante’s last respects, she turned over her shoulder and witnessed the entire Huntington Park team marching in unison into the funeral home – uniforms on their backs, flowers in their hands and ache in their hearts.

I never had the opportunity to speak with Bustamante. But, frankly, I don’t need to hear a single word from his lips to know what kind of coach and what kind of man he was. Because the actions of his 10-year old midfielder, and all her Cyclone teammates, tell me all I need to know about that.


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Great perspective on the silent soccer issue from a world champion and triple Olympic medalist:

Silken Laumann on 'silent soccer'

Motivational speaker Silken Laumann is a former Olympic rower and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She is currently writing her autobiography and volunteers with the GoodLife Kids Foundation.

Are you a soccer fan?

My kids both played a little soccer and my dad’s a huge soccer fan. I am probably moderately interested. I have four kids – two of my own and two stepkids. Their ages are 11, 13, 14 and 15. My son plays soccer every year, a spring league in B.C. My daughter did a couple of years and actually quit because she didn’t like the parents yelling.

Was participation your idea or theirs?

Their choice. It is a very social sport. All their friends played. My son does soccer, but he also does basketball and track and swimming. He definitely does soccer because his friends do soccer.

Is part of the social aspect being with their parents – and listening to their parents yell from the sidelines?

Certainly, as kids get older they get a little self-conscious about their parents cheering them on. About their parents even being there.

Are you an active, vocal soccer fan?

Not really. I tend to clap and cheer and say “Good goal!” I wouldn’t say I was silent, but I’m not going to get in there and call the strategy either.

What do you think of parents who do?

Many of us don’t take the time to think about what we want our children’s experience in sport to be. What is important? This is particularly relevant when the children are young. If you develop a consciousness around “These are the rules of play,” not just for the kids, but the parents, I think ultimately you have a much more positive experience around the sport.

From your experience, is vocal crowd support a help or hindrance?

Well, in the sport I came from, you really can’t hear everybody! You have 3,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs. You certainly can’t hear your mom yelling “Go, Silken!’ Certainly, when you are in agony the last few minutes of the race, the roar of the crowd tends to lift you a little bit.

Would a silent regatta work? Rowers competing before silent crowds lining the banks?

There is always a better solution. To me, silent soccer or silent rowing, that’s an extreme position. Sport is this phenomenal vehicle for building community, for building values and learning skills. Rather than keeping silent, why not talk about it? One of the greatest tools we have is communication.

Do you see vocal crowd support as a help or hindrance in kids’ soccer?

In community soccer, there is no place for abusive yelling or parents coaching aggressively on the sidelines. I don’t know the origins of silent soccer, but I imagine the thinking is around combatting that.

Do the positives of enforced silence outweigh the negatives? Many parents enjoy being positively involved, cheering and shouting encouragement without being abusive.

My daughter would have had a better experience of soccer had there not been as much yelling. Even when it was only cheering, she thought people were yelling at her. You just hear voices and you are five years old. For her, it was anxiety-producing. So she didn’t continue to play.

Silent soccer is an easy answer but I don’t think it addresses the problem, which is that we are using soccer, we are using all kinds of sports, as the primary way for getting our kids active, so we want every kid to have a positive experience in the game. That can only happen when we are clear about what our values are.

An argument used by opponents of silent soccer is that it’s a denial of civil liberties. No one has the right to deny them, within reason, from speaking their minds.

If you create a rule, it gets people’s backs up. Invite people to the table to have a conversation. What sport means and what sort of rules they want for their five- or eight- or 10-year olds. People are much more likely to play by rules they themselves agreed to.

What is the worst thing anyone has ever shouted at you from a sideline?

I grew up in Mississauga and I used to row on the Credit River. The fishermen could be a little bit rabid at times. I had to be pretty tough because of the abuse I would take. I got called pretty much every name in the book as I got too close to their fishing lines. I remember one – I was rowing past dusk and he said he was going to shoot me! He actually met me at the dock. I was 17 years old. I think the only thing that deterred him was that I had cut my hand. My blisters had opened and the whole front of my shirt was bloody. It kind of freaked him out.


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Finding hope on the soccer fields of Haiti

By Kathleen Toner, CNN

August 25, 2011 6:05pm EDT


Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Five years ago, Patrice Millet learned he was in the advanced stages of a rare bone cancer. A stem cell transplant was his only hope for survival.

The businessman from Haiti underwent the procedure in the United States. After nine months of treatment and recovery, his cancer was in remission. Millet returned home in May 2007 determined to start living the life he'd always wanted: helping children from Haiti's poorest slums have a brighter future.

"Every day you see so many kids in need -- so many bad stories, tragic stories," said Millet, 49. "All my life, I wanted to do something good for my country, for the kids. (So) I said, 'This is the time. I have nothing to lose.' "

That summer, Millet sold his construction supply business and started a program called FONDAPS, which stands for Foundation Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours (Foundation of Our Lady of Perpetual Help). The program uses soccer to help children stay out of trouble and learn valuable life skills. Millet calls it "education by sport."

"I want the kids to be very good citizens," he said. "In soccer ... you need to give, you need to receive, you need team spirit, discipline, sportsmanship. ... It's not all about soccer, it's about life."

Millet started by focusing his efforts on children from Solino, one of Port-au-Prince's most dangerous slums. But going into the neighborhood to recruit young participants was risky.

"My wife didn't want me to go. She said gangs (would) kill me." But Millet was undeterred.

"I said, 'I'd rather die doing something good than die in bed.' "

While Millet was first greeted with suspicion, he was eventually accepted by the locals and children flocked to join his program. Today, hundreds of children have benefited from FONDAPS.

Soccer programs for children are rare in Haiti, and players generally must pay to participate. In Millet's program, the equipment, uniforms, shoes and training are all free for participants. He also pays the transportation and entry fees for players to compete in soccer tournaments.

"When you live in the ghetto, you don't see the world outside," he said. "I try to bring hope for them, ... to show them that (their) life is not only the reality."

Before the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, Millet's program had expanded to three neighborhoods and involved more than 600 children, including more than 150 girls. But the quake devastated Solino and halted FONDAPS' momentum. One of the children in the program died and many lost friends and family members.

"When the earthquake came ... it became harder for the kids," Millet said. "Now, most of them live in tents. ... They have to fight for everything."

Two of the three fields where Millet had held soccer practice became large tent cities. His remaining field is located on the outskirts of Port au Prince -- too far for many of his former players to walk. But about 200 boys still make the journey. Millet believes that the difficult times have only increased the need for his work.

"In Port-au-Prince right now, there is almost no soccer field," he said. "It's very important for a kid to play. ... I try to give them joy, give them their childhood."

The children, ages 9-17, practice five days a week. And Millet often arranges games on Sundays.

"When they win, they are happy and they know that it's because they worked hard for it. ... That is the message I want to tell them," said Millet. "Sometimes you win, sometime you lose. ... But this is the way you win in life."

Since many of "his kids," as he calls them, lack father figures, Millet also acts as a role model and mentor. After practice, he and the other coaches regularly talk with the boys about what's going on in their lives. Millet constantly stresses the importance of education to them, and at times dips into his own pocket to pay their school fees.

"They don't have to steal ... or (join a) gang. They know that they can do something. They know they can believe in themselves," said Millet.

While FONDAPS is basically a one-man operation run on a shoestring budget, Millet is always looking for other ways to help his players. Usually once a week, participants receive packets of pasta, rice and beans to bring home to their families. He is also working on getting a bus to transport children to practice, and he hopes to one day establish his own school with athletic fields and programs in music and art.

Despite the challenges to keep his program going, Millet is not lacking in motivation.

"To see the joy in the face of a kid ... and you know what he's living (through) ... that makes me happy," he said. "It's so wonderful to see the progress they make in soccer, in their own life, in everything."

For Jeff Fouvant, Millet's program has been a lifeline. The 11-year-old lost his father in the earthquake and is living in a tent with 10 family members. Fouvant's entire family depends on the food he receives from FONDAPS, and Millet also pays for his school fees.

"Mr. Patrice ... he helped us a lot," said Fouvant. "He is a hero."

In 2009, Millet's cancer returned, but he's treating it with medication. He recently spent several weeks in the U.S. undergoing radiation treatment, but he insists that he's feeling good. Though cancer is a reality that Millet can't escape, he said he's happier now than he was before his diagnosis. And he's determined to do as much as he can with whatever time he has left.

"I realized how important life is, every moment," he said. "I am not ready to die yet. I have many, many things to do."

Want to get involved? Check out the FONDAPS website at www.fondaps.com and see how to help.


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