The players interacted with students ages 3 to 9 in the classroom and on the field. Pioneers players read books to the youngsters and lead soccer sessions. The visit on Friday, March 8, was the second visit as part of a program called “Read, Run and Fun.”
“It’s a mentoring program that is designed to get the players out in the community and to get them to interact with its youth,” said Michael Mordocco, the team’s head coach.
Arriving at the school, the players split up in two groups. One group read to students in their classrooms. The other group brought students to the school gym for a soccer session where the students played soccer-related games.
In the classrooms, the reading mostly consisted of Dr. Seuss books, as March is Dr. Seuss month, but the students also listened to stories about dinosaurs and Pete the Cat.
The program, Mordocco said, is a great opportunity for his players to build character, mature and prepare for the future.
“It’s healthy for them to communicate with people, whether it is children or adults, in different environments and different fields,” he said. “To be able to build relationships will benefit them and this program will help facilitate that.”
Six of the seven players who visited Huntington Montessori School are international student-athletes from Argentina, Australia, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago.
“It’s a great interaction! The kids love them,” said Jeff Rodriguez, head teacher for a mixed group with 3 to 6-year-olds.
Rodriguez sees the cultural differences between the players and the children as a great experience for the students. Last month they talked about diversity in his class.
“We were touching on how we are all different, but how we should celebrate that and be appreciative of each individual, that we can all learn something from one another,” he said. “I think, by the team coming in and having everyone being from someplace different, the kids can learn something from them. It’s nice for them to get a perspective from someone else.”
The Montessori School students aren’t the only ones who gain perspective during the experience. By visiting the school, Paul Hein, freshman defender and broadcasting major from Germany, had the chance to learn about the American education system.
“It’s very interesting to get to know the American school system and what it looks like,” he said. “It’s interesting to see how they use the Montessori method.”
Junior physical education major Kyle Parish, a midfielder and defender, also thinks the experience has been valuable.
“I’m trying to do physical education and coaching, so personally it’s a very good experience for me to see what I can use and improve on to further my education,” he said.
Rodriguez would like to see the team return, and also feels that more schools should invite university teams to interact with children.
“I think this is a really nice experience not only for kids but for the team as well,” he said. “I would really recommend this to other schools.”