Students become teachers of The Beautiful Game
EDWARDS – This is where legends are born. This is the home to future Renaldos and Mia Hamms. They will look back 20 years from now and say, “We knew them then.”Or maybe not.But it sure is a fun way for the Battle Mountain girls’ soccer team and local kids to spend a Saturday morning.It’s called Micro and every Saturday from 9-10 a.m. during the fall and the spring, Battle Mountain’s respective teams – boys or girls – take time out from their hectic weeks to introduce 3-5-year-olds to the game.At this age, it’s not so much tutoring the tykes on the finer points of the game, much less the rules. An American adult has a hard enough time figuring out what offsides in soccer is, much less a 4-year-old. It’s about passing the love of the game on and giving back.
“It’s awesome. I was there once,” Huskies senior Morgan Wallace said. “I remember looking up to the girls who were better than me. I enjoy knowing that I’m bringing soccer into their lives because it’s a huge part of my life. Passing that on to others gives me great joy.””It’s important to give back,” midfielder Erika Ghent said, “We get a lot of support from our community. Everyone’s behind us. It’s fun for us.”Micro revolves around the very basics of the game, dribbling around a cone or three shooting on goal or learning how to pass. But primarily, the emphasis is on fun.”We’re not too proud to play a little duck, duck, goose,” Huskies coach David Cope joked.
RootsCope, along with the Vail Recreation District’s Joel Rabinowitz, started the program around five years ago. (Battle Mountain hockey has since started a similar program working with younger skaters under the guidance of coach Gary Defina).The program now attracts 100-200 boys and girls every Saturday, and that crowd is starting to include the offspring of former Battle Mountain soccer players.”It makes you feel old as a coach,” Cope quipped.In all seriousness, Cope feels that Micro is an important part of Huskies soccer. In recent years as both the boys’ and girls’ teams have experienced growing success, these teams have gained a greater following within the Eagle County community.
“It’s been something that’s been really well received by our players,” the coach said. “We just stress that you have to give back to the community a little bit because the kids get so much attention playing for the high school. They get crowds and this and that. They can give back to the game by building the next generation. They can give back to the community by helping kids.”The sessions start with the “one-plus-one” philosophy. Each kid starts with a ball and parents are encouraged to go out on the field to kick the ball around with their child to increase his or her comfort level.When the kids move on to working on assorted basic skills, they work each week with the same player. That experience forges bonds between the little ones and their new “coach.”Often times, the Huskies will conduct Micro before hopping on the bus for road games. And when Micro is followed by a home game – Saturday start times are traditionally at 11 a.m. – it’s not uncommon to see the little ones rooting for Battle Mountain.”My sons got to know some of the players (on the boys’ team) last fall,” said Eric Stauch, father of Tucker, 5, and Henry, 4, who are Micro regulars. “We ended up going to a lot of the games and they really started to follow the team. It’s the same with the girls.”
Future Huskies?While figuring out who has tools to be a future high school players is not exactly going to happen at this age level, an added benefit of the program is that Micros start the game at an early age.”The ulterior motive is there – to make them into soccer players. It’s Saturday. That what you do – play soccer,” Cope said. “They play a game on a Saturday and that becomes a part of their week. We’re definitely trying to expose them to the game at a young age.”Whether or not organized soccer holds a place in the future, Micro Saturdays are very much a happening for the program’s participants.
“They look forward to it every week,” Stauch said. “They know that soccer is on Saturday. They haven’t been on a soccer team yet, so this is the big time for them. It’s like a game on Friday night under the lights for them.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.