MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, Twentynine Palms, Calif --
He dribbles the soccer ball down the field, cleats digging into soft earth. As he approaches the other team's forward, he cuts left, cuts right and manages to keep the ball. The crowd is cheering, shouting his name. He sees his objective in the distance, guarded closely by a goalie, and now two opponents are nipping at his heels.
As he picks up speed, beads of sweat collect on his forehead. He's closing in. The tension between him and the goalie is blatant when their eyes meet. Both are determined to defend their team’s honor, unwilling to back down. He's within striking distance when he stops dead in his tracks. “Kick the ball!,” his coach yells. He focuses, takes a deep breath and rockets the soccer ball toward the goal. The ball slips between the goalie’s hands and victoriously snaps within the net. Five-year-old Rian Coons scored the last point of the game Oct. 12 against the Mammoths. The Longnecks continue their undefeated season with a record of 4-0 in the Combat Center's youth soccer league.
Rian's mother signed him up for soccer to get him out of the house and mix up their regular schedule a bit.
“I wanted him to try
something new,” said Jessika Coons. “He has so much fun out here and he loves playing.”
The youth soccer league kicked off seven weeks ago and according to Marine Corps Community Services personnel, has had an impressive turn out.
“This season had the most sign-ups I've seen since working for MCCS,” said Jenn Halle, recreation assistant, MCCS. “Of all the divisions, micro-soccer had the largest turn out.”
Micro-soccer is the division for children ages four and five. This variation of soccer allows three players per team on the field at a time and the players are required to rotate through positions.
“Micro-soccer is a really good way to introduce kids to the game,” said Halle. “This way they get to learn how each position on the field contributes and they get to see which ones they like most.”
Micro-soccer has, on average, six players on each team and there are a total of 22 teams in the league.
Gabbie Telles signed up her four-year-old daughter, Sophia, for soccer for the first time this year.
“It teaches her teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship,” Telles said. “It keeps her active too.”
For many Combat Center children, MCCS youth sports is a great way to get involved, stay active and meet kids like them, Halle said.
“She gets really excited for practice and games,” Telles said. “Since she's an only child, this gives her a chance to socialize with other kids and make new friends.”
This year’s games will continue until the end of the month, and though the Longnecks hope to continue to defend their undefeated record, they know that winning is not what’s important in the game.
“He's learning sportsmanship,” said Coons, “He knows it's not always about winning but, he also knows how to be a good winner.”