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CLASSROOM:League of responsibility

IN THE

Adams Elementary students learn ropes of running a team by refereeing school's soccer games.

April 03, 2007|By Michael Miller

Last month, Ivan Jaimes got a rare opportunity for a boy his age. The Adams Elementary School fourth-grader was picked by his classmates to be a soccer referee — and would get to don a black shirt, blow a whistle and make calls on students older than himself.

The only catch was, Ivan had never refereed before, and the first game was starting in about 15 hours.

"I didn't know how to do it," said Ivan, 9. "I had to call my uncle to ask how."

Ivan's uncle, who had been a soccer team captain before, gave him a quick rundown on red cards, yellow cards, foul calls and the other ropes of the job. By last Tuesday, Ivan hadn't had to eject a player yet — but he had learned how to blow a whistle a number of different ways, which he counted as the most fun part of refereeing.

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Adams' soccer tournament, now in its third year, gives students like Ivan the opportunity to run a sports league almost from top to bottom. The participants, all fourth- and fifth-graders, select team names and captains, keep their own scores and even sign up their own classmates to play in the tournament.

The tradition started in 2005 when a group of boys approached Principal Candy Cloud wanting to start an organized playground activity. Since then, the three-week spring tournament has grown increasingly popular.

"Now, the kids will ask even in September, 'Are we doing the soccer tournament this year, and when's it going to be?'" Cloud said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm for it."

On Tuesday, the eight teams in the league — Piranas, Blue Lightning, USA, Chivas, Brazil, America, Mexico and All-Stars — faced off in the final week of competition.

This week, the two highest-ranking teams plan to face off for the championship title.

Each of the teams in the league is coed, with around 12 members, a captain and a designated referee. Cloud said administrators' main contribution is selecting the players for each team — which prevents cliquishness, although each student is allowed to pick one friend to ensure that they'll end up on a squad together.

Once assembled, the teams vote to fill different positions. Fifth-grader Haley Flores said she got appointed captain by luck after tying with a teammate for the most votes.

"We played rock-paper-scissors, and I won," said Haley, 10.

She had played club soccer before, she added, but didn't find the Adams league much different — except, possibly, that it was easier to join.

"Anybody plays if they want to play, so we pretty much play everywhere," she said.

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