November 14, 2008

Sweetwater Students Make the Most of Their Opportunity

By John Philip Wyllie

There was a quiet stillness in the air over the soccer fields at Bonita Vista High early on the morning of November 6. Charleen Love, the school’s adaptive P.E. teacher knew it wouldn’t last long. One by one staff members began arriving hours before their designated start time in order to set up the fields for a Sweetwater Union High School District tradition.

Within minutes these initially quiet fields were a beehive of activity as staff members struggled to get everything into place for the flood of people that would soon be arriving. Around 8:00 a.m. school buses from the four corners of the district began arriving and out of them poured excited students wearing bright smiles and their respective school colors. They had come to represent their schools in the Sixth Annual Sweetwater Union High School Soccer Tournament for the district’s students with developmental disabilities.

Under Love’s guidance the tournament has grown from a single game between two schools to a district-wide event involving 250 participants representing 11 local schools.

On hand to cheer them on was an estimated crowd of 1,500 Bonita Vista students and a significant number of proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings.

Montgomery High goalkeeper Jorge Torres. Photo: J.P. Wyllie

The teams battled on three fields simultaneously. What the players lacked in skills and tactics they more than made up for with energy and exuberance. The sounds of Baja Bugs, a local Beatles cover band, filled the air along with the wonderful aroma of carne asada cooking on the grill. This was more than just an athletic contest, it was an event. For these students it was a rare opportunity to move out of the bleachers and on to the playing field.

“Our students have been practicing on and off for the last month,” said Eastlake coach, Mike Martinez. They got to practice just about every day for an hour and they are all very excited to be a part of this tournament. We worked on their skills, went over the rules and taught them how to play. There are no varsity teams for kids with special needs so when they come out here they are here to represent their schools. This is a good opportunity for them.”

Eastlake midfielder Joseph Garcia was one of the goal scorers for the Titans.

“The greatest part of today was just being out here playing soccer with my friends. My job today was to kick the ball and to score goals. I sometimes get a little bit nervous playing in front of so many people, but when you hear everyone cheering it is very exciting. Later on we are going to be getting a big trophy.”

Opposing Garcia on the other side of the field was Montgomery goalkeeper, Jorge Torres.

“I spent most of the day in the goal,” Torres said “Sometimes they scored on me, but I stopped a lot of their shots. From the goal I tried to motivate the other players (by yelling to them). I want to come back next year and beat all the other teams.”

“My job was just to help our soccer team and shoot some goals,” said Bonita Vista midfielder Lexi Ontiveros. “I had three today and we won our games. It was very exciting to play in front of so many people.”

Providing athletic competition was just one of the objectives on this day. Through the sale of food and drinks the program grossed a much needed $1,400. The tournament also carried on a district tradition of providing special athletic competition that dates all the way back to 1978.

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