By John Philip Wyllie
Like Bumble bees returning to their hive one by one the yellow and black school buses of the Sweetwater Union High School District descended upon the soccer fields adjacent to Bonita Vista High School. Inside, students beaming from ear to ear were proudly wearing the uniforms of their respective schools. Brimming with an infectious enthusiasm, these developmentally disabled students were about to participate in the Fifth Annual Sweetwater Union High School District Soccer Tournament.
With an estimated crowd of 1,500 students and parents on hand to witness this spectacle, the event took on a carnival-like atmosphere enhanced by the music blaring from the loudspeakers and the sweet smell of carne asada waftng over the crowd. On the sidelines, Leo the Balloon Man entertained the student spectators with his incredible array of balloon animals and objects fashioned into hats. Long lines of hungry students swallowed up the nachos, candy, and sodas being sold to raise money for these students.
On the fields several games were going on simultaneously and the action was fast and furious. What the students may have lacked in skills was more than made up for with enthusiasm.
“We practice and practice and practice and practice until we get it down. That is important to us as a team,” said Eastlake High School’s Kristen Aerts. “This is overwhelming. There are a lot of people here, but I am more excited than nervous. I think we are doing pretty well, but it really doesn’t matter whether we win or lose as long as we show good sportsmanship.”
“I’ve only played one game so far, but I already have two goals,” said Castle Park forward Eddie Roberts. We have been practicing very hard. We wanted to have a good year this year.” Roberts did just that adding to his goal totals later on in the tournament.
“This is great (having all these people watching) but it makes me nervous,” said Southwest High’s Nick Castro.
“I enjoy playing soccer and seeing my old friends (from the other schools)” said Bonita Vista High’s Javier Blea. “I have scored a goal in each of my three games, but I really enjoy playing defense more.”
Event organizer Charleen Love, a Bonita Vista High Adaptive P.E. teacher just enjoys giving these students the opportunity to showcase their skills. The event has grown over the years from a single game between Bonita Vista and Southwest High into a district- wide event that grows bigger and better every year.