With enthusiasm and a booming voice, John Adams encouraged Union Intermediate School students as they kicked a ball to each other. On teams, they competed eagerly so that ball can reach their opponent’s goal post.
As the director of coaching for recreation for the Wilmington Hammerheads, Adams enjoys teaching soccer to young children. The school held its second annual wellness fair, with a visit from the semi-professional team from Wilmington.
He was also impressed with effort considering a lot students never played the sport.
“The energy out here has been tremendous,” Adams said.
Students Paola Del Rello and Dioselyn Banos enjoyed competing with other girls. Paola had fun competing on a team and the sportsmanship displayed.
“We made two goals already and it’s all because of the sportsmanship that we’re using,” Paola said.
Dioselyn had fun too and said it was an amazing experience with the Wilmington Hammerheads.
“I’m glad these coaches are here to teach us,” Dioselyn said.
Paola also received encouragement from her peers to play soccer in the future.
Adams was assisted by Kimberly Crabbe, who was the first African-American female to play at the national level of soccer. She is currently the outreach program director for the organization. She works with about 900 student during a week through after-school programs and other school visits.
“We want to touch as many students as we can and give them the opportunity to love the sport,” Crabbe said. “If you can bring it out and introduce it a very fun level, then you can probably engage more into the sport.”
Crabbe also enjoys building relationships with people in different counties such as Sampson.
“I’m all about kids and I think giving them more opportunities within all of the different sports that are out here is important,” Crabbe said. “Not everyone is into basketball and football.”
With many years of experience on the professional level, Crabbe enjoyed bringing something new to the students.
“If we can introduce it at a fun level and get a few of them interested, it’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.
Lily Herring, a senior from the University of South Carolina, enjoyed visiting Union Intermediate and working with the youths for the Wilmington Hammerheads
“The girls that I connected with were a blast,” herring said. “It was really cool seeing them enjoy being on the field. They never had that opportunity before to score a goal and it was really cool to see them do it for the first time.”
Tyler Rohrback, recently graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, with a degree in elementary education. He will be teaching fifth grade and coached with the club for about two years.
“It’s great to give these kids the opportunity while they’re at school to play the game,” Rohrback said about playing in an organized manner.
Herring added that a lot of children don’t have the opportunity to play organized sports and work with other people. Through the game, she said it builds friendships.
“A lot of the girls who just payed never met before,” she said. “They were hugging each other when they scored and it was a good opportunity to build friendships that they wouldn’t have made otherwise.”
Rohrback feels the same way about the game and its benefits to players.
“Soccer teaches you skills that you’re going to use for the rest of your life,” he said.
Tanya Robinson-Freeman, health and physical education teacher, organized the event to promote wellness and new experiences. Funding for the event was made possible through Simple Gifts, which provides teaching fellowship grants to educators that go beyond the classroom. The Wilmington Hammerheads are scheduled to return in August for a soccer clinic in the Sampson County School’s Union District.
“The kids love soccer and they’re good at it too,” Robinson-Freeman said. “We’re just really excited that they’re able to come and share their expertise and professional goals and ambitions with the kids.”
Through the grant program, she wants to teach children about opportunities beyond the field.
“My goal is to show that even if you don’t become a professional athlete, there’s other things that you can do,” Robinson-Freeman said about related careers involving nursing, physical training or nutrition. “There’s a lot of things you can do to help the athlete.
Limbo and cornhole were some of the other games played during the wellness fair, held in conjunction with the school’s field day. Robinson-Freeman is already making plans for next year with soccer and other sport-related experiences.
“The kids get excited about it every year and we hope to continue it,” Robinson-Freeman said.