Saturday, May 9, 2009

SSUSA visits St. Alban's

At the invitation of Hart Roper, Dean of Admissions at St. Alban's, Will Mazzuto of Street Soccer USA and I traveled to this beautiful boy's preparatory school nestled on a breezy hillside behind the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

Hart Roper, besides being a dedicator educator, husband, and father of two baby girls, has been my soccer buddy as long as I can remember. We played together on the club level, reaching the final four in the nation as U-17's and were both recruited to play at Davidson. In fact I probably would not have made it very far in soccer at all if Hart's mom hadn't given me rides to so many games, tournaments, and practices. So my soccer life has been synonymous with Hart's. He even came to Charlotte and trained with our 2007 Homeless World Cup team before they went abroad a couple year's ago. St Alban's is lucky to have such a good man working in support of their students, not to mention coaching their varsity soccer team.

In the words of the school's website St. Alban's creates "an intimate community that thrives on close relationships between faculty and students, on daily family style lunches, on a challenging yet caring environment." I was struck when I read that because it is very similar to what we try to do for our street soccer players, just substitute soccer practices for "daily style lunches."

I was also struck while attending such a lunch at how the school provided structure and support. In describing the upcoming field day, one teacher told the students what to wear, where to be, when to be their, how to act while there, as well as how not to act. This type of instruction and guidance is exactly what most of our players have lacked, growing up in poverty, changing schools, changing families, etc.

When I gave a presentation to the middle school students I tried to contrast what I had seen at the lunch with the lives of many of our participants. The students were very impressive. They spoke up, responded, asked questions, and genuinely engaged in the question, "what would it be like for me to be homeless."

In the end several of the students came up afterward offering to volunteer at our cup and we set up a tentative challenge match for our July 31st Street Soccer USA Cup tournament against St. Alban's. We hope to see many of the students, faculty, and parents at the matches representing the school, sharing their impressive community with our players by supporting them as fans. We look forward to recognizing the group on the PA. Perhaps they will win the top fan group award at the cup. Who is going to challenge them?

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