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Apodaca: Coaches give more than time in Pilot Cup

June 03, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

The Pegasus School fifth- and sixth-grade boys gold soccer team took the field for its first Pilot Cup game Wednesday evening.

The players, clad in navy-colored shirts, looked excited — a little nervous, but definitely pumped up to square off against rival Mariners Christian in green.

But as the Pegasus boys got in position, my eyes were fixed on the team's two coaches as they called out: "Hey, let's pressure them!" "Don't be afraid to take shots!"

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After play began, the Pegasus coaches kept up the banter, alternating between instructions — "Slide over in front of that guy!" — and encouragement — "It's all you. Nice, good job!"

It was obvious that the coaches understood well that the job required a deft combination of maturity, knowledge and empathy, and they handled the challenge like seasoned veterans — which makes it all the more impressive considering that the duo in charge is just a few years older than the players.

Meet Corona del Mar High School's Conor Roche and J Serra Catholic High School's Rusty Padia, both sophomores and varsity soccer players, and now both Pilot Cup coaches.

There is so much that I love about The Pilot Cup: the chance for elementary-age kids to bond with schoolmates; the fun family atmosphere and camaraderie; and the civic pride it fosters.

But there's another little-noticed yet equally wonderful aspect to the weeklong soccer tournament, which concludes Sunday. For some teenage volunteers it's an opportunity to give back to the community that has served them well.

Year after year, at many of the elementary schools participating in The Pilot Cup, parents fall all over themselves in a scramble to sign up as coaches. Inevitably, though, there are some teams that need or desire others for the job. That's where the high school kids come in.

There are no records kept on exactly how many of the coaches of the 207 teams participating in The Pilot Cup this year are teenagers. Just from asking around I was able to identify about 20 of these kid-coaches, and I'm sure there are more — too many, unfortunately, to give equal attention to all of them in this column.

But to all these young people, be assured that your efforts and generosity are greatly appreciated.

Of course, these teenagers are motivated to volunteer in part because of the community service hours they earn for the gigs, which they can credit toward their graduation requirements and list on college applications.

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