For the past few weeks, it’s not unlikely that members Ann Richards Middle School soccer team will be taking hold of the mic during the celebration section all-school morning assembly. Over the course of the season, the announcement of wins, losses, and “shout-outs” to star players has been a weekly tradition for the team. The 34 players are split into A and B teams that feature both 7th and 8th grade athletes.
“My first year here, we had a bunch of kids but we just had one team,” Middle School soccer coach Mr. Eric Ortmann (“Coach O.” to the players) said. “It was a mix of 7th and 8th graders and we had like 25 kids on one team, which makes it hard to rotate when we only have 11 at a time that play. We just wanted to have as many kids participate as possible.”
Besides growth in numbers, over the three seasons Coach O. has lead the team the growth of playing skills has developed into a string of victories for both A and B team this season.
“This year was cool for me because the 8th graders were kids that I taught when they were in 6th grade,” Coach O. said. “I kind of got to see them mature as people, and soccer is a way for me to keep in touch with those kids, so that’s been kind of cool.”
Players on the team come from all different backgrounds and experiences, some having played the sport for most of their lives.
“I got involved with soccer at Ann Richards in 6th grade during Fitness Friday, and then I would practice with the team after school,” Kylie Nolan (8) said. “Ever since then I’ve just been finding my love for it and evolving in the sport.”
With players from different backgrounds and varying levels of experience each year, the difference of the team dynamic for both the players and the coach has been notable.
“Really every year the personality of the team is different,” Coach O. explained. “My first year the team was just really tough, like they knocked people over and tried extremely hard, and so a lot of their success just came from their effort. This year’s team just plays the game a little bit differently than the years past, they’re just a little more organized and creative when they play. “
The subtle differences in the players and dynamic of the team play into how as a coach, Coach O. has approached some of the aspects of the team’s unique skills.
“We don’t talk as much about positioning,” Coach O. adds. “I just give them freedom to play soccer how they would normally play.”
With the development of their teamwork and overall playing style over the course of the season, this year’s middle school soccer teams have made big strides for the program, and even made ARS middle school soccer history with a win against Gorzycki Middle School last month.
“My favorite part about this season would probably have to be the win against Gorizyki,” Nolan recalled. “[We won for] the first time ever, and I just felt really proud of my team and myself for our accomplishment.”
Besides the satisfaction of victory, the students find that their love of the sport is sometimes the best reward.
“Soccer’s just really fun,” Tracy Olea-Cervantes (8) said. “And it’s not just the sport, it’s the memories you get to make with your teammates.”
As for the future of the team, if current trends indicate anything, middle school soccer will continue to be a focal point of the middle school athletics program.
“There’s just more kids playing now,” Coach O. said. “With the first group, we had a bunch of kids who were just really good athletes and it was like… if there was a sport, they would try to play it. Now we have a bit more of kids specializing in soccer, so the kids who are participating [are] a little bit different. I think the thing I hope for is just that we continue.”
Ever striving to do better, recent successes haven’t changed the attitudes of the athletes towards their team and the sport they love.
“The thing that I like to most about playing soccer at this school is that you don’t only get to get fit and play with the team,” Olea-Cervantes said. “You got to create memories as your last year as a middle schooler.”