Bobcats learn soccer fields

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2002


LAPLACE – In approximately four years, a small after-school soccer program at East St. John Elementary has transformed into a two-part team competing on a national level.

Under the guidance of Rodney Roughneen, special education teacher at East St. John Elementary, two teams, under 11 and under 13-year-old groups, have emerged from students who were simply kicking the soccer ball around after school, but were hungry for more.

“The program began at East St. John Elementary, and has since become an entity of its own,” said Roughneen. “It started as just plain loose ball. But the kids wanted to know more about it and it’s basically become a parish team.”

The Bobcats players unite from schools across St. John Parish, such as LaPlace Elementary and Leon Godchaux Junior High. Roughneen said the team is open to any students who would like to play and learn more about soccer, just as his players have. Roughneen said the Bobcats consist of some students from his and other special education classes, but all of the students have picked up the rules of the game and continue to learn more.

“They can be just as good as any other players,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter what group their in, under 13 or under 11.”

Although the team is sectioned into two groups, both teams are packed with players ranging from 13-9 years old.

“Some other teams like this are just recreational teams, we are more like a rec. plus team,” added Roughneen.

“Some of the others play until November, we carry on and play as much as we can.”

The Bobcats schedule sets their games almost year-round, with the team taking some time off during the summer to practice.

Roughneen said the Bobcats could also add more teams, if there were enough coaches to lead them.

“We would like to play more, but the heat takes its toll,” he said.

During their full schedule of opponents, the Bobcats participate in various tournaments, not only across the LaPlace area, but into Orlando, Fla.

One such tournament in Disneyworld wrapped up in January after the Bobcats faced off against teams from across the country. Roughneen said his players didn’t advance into the finals, but said “it’s a great achievement just to be in the competition.”

On a more regular basis, the Bobcats compete in parish parks and soccer fields, such as the soccer area behind the newly constructed library on Highway 51.

Roughneen said the recent interest and availability of such parks is a welcome change from the absolute lack of soccer fields across the country.

“I used to be a soccer coach in Ireland,” he explained. “When I moved here in 1982 you couldn’t find a soccer field here anywhere. After the World Cup around 1994, soccer here started to mushroom. Now fields are all over.”

While just kicking the ball around after school led to a traveling, year-round soccer team, Roughneen said through it all the kids made new friends and learned much more than just soccer.

“We win and we lose, but we compete. The main thing is the kids have learned how to win and how to lose, which is important.”