Soccer Balls, Hope, and Healing
By: Rick Haag, English Teaching Assistant and Soccer Coach
UNITED IN A COMMON GOAL
I have been running (pun intended) the soccer program at Discovery Ranch for Girls (DRG) the past two years. I have witnessed miracles. I look at DRG and have explained it to parents, as a solar system. Each area of focus and each activity are like planets revolving around the sun of the program in its entirety. Therapeutic, Academics, Music, Administration, Rec, Equine/Calves, Residential, and yes, Soccer; each program has its unique benefit for the girls and allows them to grow in different ways. However, when combined, each program unites to a common end and becomes a holistic solar system that is a literal miracle.
From the perspective of soccer, I have been privileged to witness many such miracles. I have humbly received emails of support and appreciation from parents. I have seen it be the fulcrum that lifts many girls into a position to open up and accept other aspects of the program.
I tell the girls when they begin; the soccer pitch is a microcosm of the world. There is excitement and drama. There is physical and emotional exertion. They need commitment, loyalty, fortitude, and a sense of solidarity. There are many adversities to overcome: lack of knowledge and the willingness to learn criticism, and pressure—self-imposed and from teammates. There are expectations: a girl must do well academically and within the DRG community as a whole.
USING SOCCER AS THE CATALYST FOR CHANGE
I have seen soccer become the catalyst for change and the enticement to do better. I have seen soccer test girls to be more than they thought they could, or wanted when they first arrived.
Limits that many girls think they have are tried and overcome.
I am proud of the success of the program. I have seen several girls go on to play competitive club soccer after leaving DRG. I was overjoyed when one of our girls, along with her parents, spoke to a college recruiter and see opportunities that were once unrealistic become reality. My heart swelled and my eyes filled when a girl told me soccer was the time she could escape and allowed her to recharge her emotional batteries…in her words, “It is the thing that gets me through the week.”
THE POWER TO WRITE OUR OWN STORY
I am grateful for the hope I see in the countenances of the girls as they do things—hard things—and succeed. I am grateful for the administration and their support. I am grateful to the dedicated staff that helps, has a vision beyond the broken things, and see girls that simply need empathy, direction, and guidance.
However, I am most grateful for the girls. They show me every practice, every day, they are capable of great things and they bring so much value to this world, no matter the reason they are here. They can see and believe the past is like an old, faded newspaper that can be rolled up and cast away. They can learn they have the power to write their own story. That is the miracle.