First, a little background. Santa Cruz County puts a lot of effort into organizing its youth soccer. There are several different structured recreational teams, and several different structured competitive teams, as well as more informal arrangements.
One of the competitive clubs is the Santa Cruz County Breakers, which fields Boys and Girls teams (not co-ed) from Under 10’s through Under 19’s. You can check out the Breakers on their website at http://sccsoccer.org/index. Our relationship with the club had its ups and downs over the years, but this first season was all up.
Charlie was our first Breakers player, for this team during this season. Alex became one as soon as he was old enough, and Alban would probably have qualified (this is a selective club), but we were worried about fitting in homework (which he was allergic to) with all the training and travel for tournaments. Homework was less of an issue by this season: the older children did what they were going to do, which was typically not a lot, and the younger still showed willing.
This new team were in the under 10 age bracket, and thus able for the first time to progress from the recreational soccer that they had played until then.
A lot of the quality in a youth soccer team is in the coach, and this team had two great ones. Boo was the assistant coach, a gentle man with a knack for communicating with the boys, and Paul was the head coach. We had an English head coach! I’m trying not to be nationalistic here, and failing: we Brits did invent the game, after all! Paul Gooch is a committed soccer fanatic from way back, a fan of Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League (as was my dad), and a total youth soccer coach. Coaching was the single most important thing in his life.
His focus was, as you might expect, on his son Lynden, the team’s star striker. But his obsession benefited all of the boys on the team. A great example of this shared benefit is that Paul built his own soccer field, literally, so that Lynden and his team would always have somewhere to practice, whatever was going on with other local fields. Access to fields can be an issue. Some cost a lot to rent, some are unavailable after rainfall, some are scheduled in priority to a school, and some become pawns in a kind of political game. The bottom line is that there simply aren’t enough soccer fields in the county.
Paul wanted to ensure that he avoided all that, and cleared about 80 yards by 40 yards of land that he had rented for the boys. The clearing itself was a monumental task – this was a forest of brush – and maintaining the grass that he laid a never-ending task, but he kept it up for years. He was there several times a week to turn the irrigation on and off and moves the pipes so that the whole field was irrigated. He was there to cut the grass, as much as once a week in summer, and lay the lines on the grass that made up the pitch. He himself sawed up and moved trees which fell on the field in a storm. The field wasn’t entirely rectangular, and was a little short, but it remained a monument to what a parent who really cares can do for his child’s sport. Very special.
I don’t know if the boys picked up on their head coach’s commitment, but this whole 2005 Breakers team was committed in this, their first season with the club. These boys were 9 and 10 years old, and for them the Breakers was about as serious as it got. There were eight players on the field at any time, and the able photographer’s lens caught many of the moments that expressed their commitment.
We were lucky enough to have a professional photographer among the parents of this team. Tony Pagliaro took all the pictures on this page, as well as a couple here, and they are simply a superb record for the future.
Check out Tony’s website, (www.santacruzphotography.com, and bear in mind if you’re in the Santa Cruz area that you too could have the benefit of Tony’s photographs of your children playing their favorite sport. It’s what he does! And you can tell from the sample photos on this page that he does it well. If you’ve ever tried to take pics yourself of your child playing soccer, you’ll know what a bear it is to do right!
Back to the team! Four of the players were at Happy Valley School: Charlie, Anton, Ean and Jaia. Each features in one of the above photos.
These Happy Valley boys have stayed in touch for years after leaving their elementary school, even though they went to different schools after Happy Valley, in part because they played on the same team together for so long. The fall 2005 season was already three years into playing together for them. They would last four or five more years before the Breakers exploded their team, a story for another page.
In addition to the coach and the players, there are parents who help keep the team run. I’m sorry to say that we were not high on that list: too many children! But one woman who was on that list, even though she had way too many children to look after, was Charlie and Alex’s middle school principal. With three children of her own, and hundreds more every working day, she still signed up to be the team manager for season after season in the Breakers, and did a wonderful job for us all.
Thanks again, Mary Lonhart!
That’s why this season seemed important enough to merit a page in this photo album – in addition to the great pictures that the season produced because of Tony! How many seasons did we live through in all? Maybe 50, if you include each boy (Daphné did not take to the game), each season (spring and fall) and middle school and high school soccer, and a few of them, like this one, just stood out. It was new and fresh, boys and parents were psyched, the chemistry was good and the boys did very well.
Finally, we get to the players! They spent the season developing their passing skills, which is key step in the life of a soccer player. The good players tend to start out pretty selfish. It feels good to run through half of the opposing team, dribbling this way and that, and then score a goal. Many of the boys on this first season Breakers team had done that playing recreational soccer.
But as the opposing players get older and improve their skills, it becomes harder and harder to do it on your own. It becomes easier to pass the ball to and fro to cut though the opposing team.
We’ll do a little tooting Charlie’s horn here: he already had the passing down. That was one of his real, early skills. He always had that vision, the ability to see who to pass to and where.
Paul had apparently decided that this first season in the Breakers was the time to start teaching all of our boys to pass to and fro among themselves, to familiarize them with the key principle of soccer: it doesn’t matter how well you play, it’s a team game. It took a while for the new format to gel, but as the season progressed it was a joy to watch some of the moves that they started stringing together, passing this way and that.
They even started learning the more difficult passing skill, opening space for yourself to be passed to, and by the end of the season were sometimes moving off the ball to open up space for themselves.
All in all, they had an impressive first season together, very impressive. Not forgetting fun to watch!