ESJ Elementary soccer program on the rise

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 7, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 7, 2000

RESERVE – To see the gains that soccer has made in the United States, one only had to cast their eyes to Sydney, Australia last month.

Who would have ever though that the U.S. losing a soccer match would beconsidered an upset? But that’s exactly what it was when the women’s team lost in its gold medal match against Norway. This was a team that had wonthe gold in Atlanta four years ago and won the Women’s World Cup in 1999.

The men’s team nearly matched their counterparts, making it to the medal round for the first time ever.

But one did not have to go to Australia to see that growth. They just have tohead to East St. John Elementary School after school. That is where over150 students participate in the school’s after-school program developed by teacher David Roughneen.

The program began modestly a few years ago when a former French teacher at the school took his students out to play after school. When the teacherleft, Roughneen went to principal Jerry “Texx” Galloway and asked to take over the program and expand it.

“The whole thing is that the principal has been behind everything,” Roughneen said. “Without his support, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”The program started with fifth- and sixth-graders. Fourth-graders werelater added and third -graders were included starting last year. Games areheld Mondays through Thursdays from September to May.

Students report to the field after school. Around 3 p.m., they begin towarmup with games usually beginning at 3:15 p.m. Buses are provided tobring the students home afterwards. Games last until 4:20 or until thesecond bus arrives.

Currently, there are four boys and two girls teams for third and fourth grade and four teams with more players per team for the higher grades. Inthe past, Roughneen ran the program by himself. With another teacher atthe school, Eve Lafton, volunteering to help, Roughneen said he may add more games per day.

Roughneen has set down rules for the players. They must maintain a 1.5grade point average in order to participate. If the student misbehaves inschool, Roughneen receives a note from the teacher and the student is taken out of games until the behavior improves. If players fight before the game,they are held out of the game. If they fight during it, they are taken out. Andif they fight afterwards, they have to miss the next game. Players are alsotaken out if they curse.

“We emphasis that grades are the primary thing here,” Roughneen said. “Theprogram is a privilege, not a right.”Roughneen has had experience with running soccer programs. Before comingto the United States, he coached a soccer team in Ireland for 10 years. Hewas also a member of a board that oversaw between 600 and 700 teams. Hewas in charge of the 13- and 14-year-old program which included 220 teams.

Roughneen referees the game in the after-school program. He also teachesthe players as the games go along.

“The kids are interested in it and that’s good,” Roughneen said.

Roughneen recently received two grants to help with the after-school program, a $1,200 cash grant from the U.S. Youth Soccer Association andan $800 equipment grant from Addidas. Roughneen said the money will gotoward the purchase of shirts, nets, markings for the field, balls and corner flags.

“That I could teach them and provide them with a better understanding of the sport,” Roughneen said of the goals for the program. “No matter whatsport you play, you have to compete properly.”

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