Thursday, June 22, 2006


Before i start the post that will turn out to be about one of our longest participating members, statyk, i want you to check out this photo of our team and garden program director don boekelheide putting on our USA jersey's before our world cup match today. never mind the result, we were proud to support our team. on saturday during the italy game, beasely scored and it took us 5 minutes to realize the goal was called back because we were celebrating so hard . . . (ps please ignore the mirror effect the cpu camera put on our jerseys)

Practice this tuesday was not exactly what it was the previous tuesday. the previous tuesday we went out and found a pick up game with a bunch of talented haitians. for one of our new players, sean, this really openned his eyes to the fact that soccer is the world's games, not just played by suburbans whites as he had previously gathered. the high paced game last tuesday in the rain, the energy, the jibe and the jabber, left sean, pancho, and others gasping for breath and grasping for words that might light up as brightly as their eyes did with excitement. "that was fun," was the understated conclusion our guys could manage to verbalize.

this tuesday we held off practice in order to watch england fail to hold off sweden in the final moments of their final first round game in the world cup, a 2-2 draw. after the game we took off to play. we were excited to play with cyrus, a liberain, who says he played for the u-15 national team in liberia before coming to the states. we looked for a pick up game at queens college, but found only a pair of players, excellent ones, looking for a game. Here is where we run into the problem of being and inclusive program. Cyrus, an excellent player, myself, rob, and Dave (the 16 year panamanian), plus our two new acquaintances were of a quite different level than the majority of our other participants. Cyrus was disineterested in frustrated. Dave was phenomenal, rejoicing in every goal he scored, and our two guest played nice, taking it easy on amanda (19 years old, just quit school and now working at a deli) when she wiffed the ball a few times, and then turning it up a notch to take me on down the wing even if their service was inevitably muffed by andrey who has developed great ball handling skills, but still can resist toe-poking his shots.

This is the game we always play though, lowering expectations of the team in order to include everyone, yet seeking to find ways to challenge our top players. Likewise on the life skills front we find that higher functioning folks fail to challenge themselves because they are so much better off than others around them. For people who have grown up on or around the streets, success is too narrowly defined if defined at all. of course i have my definition of success for each player, but they only own their own definition, so that is the important one to listen to and encourage.

towards the end of practice one of the old timers, tony kelley showed up. he had taken three buses and looked for us at two locals, but made it to practice after getting off of his job at Lava bar and grill where he is the head host and makes 40 to 50 bucks in tips per night. tony is a great example of what i was speaking of earlier. i can't tell you how many times we have decided to kick tony off the team, but gave him one more chance. tony's been with us since the very first day. that means almost two years of soccer. he has just barely cleared our minumum expections on every occasion since day one, and slowly but surely, this misanthropic, gothic, self styled super-hero called "statyk" has become a committed regular participant, a responsible father, and no longer homeless. all along i have told tony's critics that he is on his own trajectory, however gradual and glacierlike that might be, only half believing my own words. a turning point i think was last year when he turned himself in for being behind in child support. a father with no father or mother of his own, tony at that point still carried around a wwf wrestling belt that he earned as the champion of his mock pro-wrestling league he formed with his friends. Actually he still carries that around. effectively tony was a kid in man's body, and with no walls to hide behind, no bed to lay down in and collect his thoughts, tony has started to grow into that body, and his maturity is what distinguished him from the tony of before.

i realized a lot had changed when tony hopped the fence and came strutting towards our rag tag game at 8pm. I said hop in tony, and he said, no way, not till you give me some shorts, i'm not playing in these, pointing to his black cargo pants. they're in the van, i replied, it's unlocked. Tony came out in tight shorts, fairly bursting out of his practice jersey. the new players laughed, and tony laughed at himself a little and said with a smile, i don't care, i'm ready to play. I had to roll my eyes and chuckle to myself. for the first year i argued weekly with tony about changing out of his all black uniform, telling him it was one thing to try to play in black denim, but another thing to go on wearing the pants after sweating in them. Somewhere along the line tony took ownership of the idea of wearing a practice uniform and shedding the black gothic attire for a bright red and blue street soccer 945 practice uniform. as i watched tony use his instep to finish a goal on tuesday, i thought to myself, i kind of missed the days when he yelled "haya!" marshal arts style everytime he swung at the ball, testing every ounce of patience in our players with each outburst, but certain things, i concluded are always fonder in memory than they every were in experience.

No comments: