Seventh and eighth graders stand across from one another to practice drlls with a player of a different skill level. Photo by Sammie Seamon.
Forty-five seventh and eighth graders stayed after school last week to try out for the 25-spot middle school soccer team.The soccer team has an exceptionally large amount of players compared to that of other schools and past teams at ARS.
“There’s just a lot of girls here who are willing to try new things and there’s a lot of kids who have never played on a soccer team before that came out for the tryouts, which is really cool,” math teacher and soccer coach Eric Ortmann said. “Some of them on the team have never played on a team before… and they thought: ‘Why not soccer?’”
Seventh grade is the first year students can tryout for sports. This year’s seventh grade volleyball team had a very successful season at the beginning of the year, becoming city champions. Some seventh graders took this as inspiration to join soccer to take this team to a similar victory.
“We made the district champs for volleyball, and [we’re] hoping that we can do it again for soccer,” seventh grade soccer player Aubrey Burgess said.
On the first day of practice, as the team started to segregate between grades and friends. But eventually everyone started to warm up to each other. The hope is that this continues to grow as the season progresses, leading to a more united team.
“They really are buying into the idea that we are all just one team, and my only hope is that that feeling gets stronger as the season goes on,” Ortmann said.
The girls also hope that they will get to know teammates from the other grades as well as people from their own grade. They believe that this will ultimately make a better team.
“I think as a team starting from the first day going on through the rest of the season, we will get to know each other better,” eighth grade soccer player Anne Katula said. “I think we’ll grow together and individually and each one of us will just get better at soccer.”
As Ortmann is the only coach of the large middle school team, he relies on the more experienced players to help lead the new players.
“Especially with my eighth graders I expect them to step up and be leaders on the team,” Ortmann said. “I’m just in the middle of this big group of kids, I’m a part of it. I’m not really leading it. Things that have worked well for them in the past, they are doing those things with the seventh graders and sort of teaching them.”
The range of skill is very diverse, because some of the girls are part of soccer teams and clubs outside of school while others have never been on a team before.
“Our team is kind of a combination of those two things: kids who have played on the team before and have a lot of experience, and some kids who are kind of new to the sport,” Ortmann said. “Right now we have a really strong group of girls who have a lot of different unique qualities who all have different strengths.”
The team continues to improve and bond with every practice, with the goal to always get better. Ortmann expressed the desire to see progress in both the girls’ skills and unity, and sees the traits of the mission statement in their determination.
“What I’ve seen so far is good. But part of the fun is seeing how much they change over the course of the season. The things that make us unique as a school I would expect be strengths for us as a soccer team, like our abilities to be leaders, toughness, our positive attitudes,” Ortmann said.
“We have a lot of grit. You can just tell, the kids want to get better and want to work for it.”