Soccer has never been one of the most popular sports in the United States due to competition from “more American” sports like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. However, in the past decade, the sport has grown massively in the U.S. with more youth development programs being created and the growth in popularity of American soccer leagues like the MLS (Major League Soccer). In recent years, many top European teams have signed American players such as Christian Pulisic of Chelsea F.C. and Weston Mckennie of Juventus. This heightened interest has also occurred within Edgemont, with more kids signing up for youth travel, club, and academy programs every year.
The soccer program at Edgemont is known to be very competitive and popular. Each fall, for several years now, over fifty high school students try out for the junior varsity and varsity teams. With more and more kids starting soccer at a young age, the high school teams are only going to get better and better.
“For as long as I’ve been here in Edgemont, we have always had a very strong soccer program. Our student athletes have been passionate about the sport and about our school team."
When Señor Chesterson, a Spanish teacher at Edgemont who loves soccer, was asked how the sport and the passions and traditions tied to it have grown or changed over the years in Edgemont, he said, “For as long as I’ve been here in Edgemont, we have always had a very strong soccer program. Our student athletes have been passionate about the sport and about our school team. I think what has always set us apart from other schools is that our players have traditionally played together on teams since elementary school. To have such a long term connection with your teammates and friends leads to a certain understanding on the field that is hard to achieve with a newly formed team.” He also hinted at the important relationships that the players have with each other saying, “I love watching the dynamic between our student athletes both on the field and off and have always been proud to be a part of this program.”
“When it comes to soccer, I feel that it is important to understand the cultural relevance of the sport that exists throughout the Spanish speaking world. Because we do not have the same passion for soccer here in the United States, it is difficult for many people to see how soccer is such an integral part of the Spanish and Latin American culture."
Chesterson has been a huge soccer fan for his entire life. He was the modified soccer coach at Edgemont for some time and tries to incorporate the sport into his classes by focusing certain parts of his curriculum on soccer’s relevance and importance in Spanish speaking countries. “When it comes to soccer, I feel that it is important to understand the cultural relevance of the sport that exists throughout the Spanish speaking world. Because we do not have the same passion for soccer here in the United States, it is difficult for many people to see how soccer is such an integral part of the Spanish and Latin American culture. It is so much more than a sport for the majority of the Spanish speaking world and many people see it as a metaphor for life,” responded Chesterson when asked why he chooses to teach about the passion for soccer in his classes.
Students may be surprised when they start learning about a sport in Spanish class, but they often become intrigued with the sport and gain a greater understanding of real Spanish traditions. Chesterson continued, “I enjoy seeing how my students try to think of something similar that we have in the United States that can be compared to the passion for soccer in the Spanish speaking world. It is interesting to view our own culture and identity through the comparisons that we make with other countries. Often, we fail to recognize that what we consider to be “normal” is typically very different in other parts of the world.” This allows students to learn more about the beautiful game while also learning about a whole new language and culture.
This is not the only example of the influence of soccer in Edgemont. Students are constantly talking about major professional tournaments and games, as well as high school soccer tournaments like the Section 1 playoffs. In addition to this, the Soccer Statistics club, started 5 years ago by students who are now sophomores in college, has grown substantially since they left high school. Mr. Scutero, the leader of the club, has worked to create a way for soccer enthusiasts to enjoy the sport in a creative way rather than simply following the sport on the news. The club focuses on recent soccer news from around the world and also has a fantasy soccer league, similar to fantasy football, throughout the season.
With this interactive element, members of the club can be exposed to new aspects of the sport that they may not have been aware of if they did not have their own fantasy soccer team. Club members acquaint themselves with international weeks, specific player injuries, and player and team form. The club used to consist only of juniors and seniors, but, now, there are freshman and sophomores participating as well. With this broadened group of members, the club now not only appeals to the most extreme soccer fans, but to those new to the sport. The club also allows the soccer teams at Edgemont gain a new source of potential players.
The club has turned into a great way to introduce younger kids to the sport and give the kids a place to talk about soccer while building relationships with possible future teammates. Initially created to be a fun club to allow the soccer fans in Edgemont to interact with the sports’ professional league, the club has since evolved into a group of kids who use the club meetings to discuss soccer related news, personal opinions on the sport and even connections to other sports, and how different Westchester high school team run their soccer programs.
Soccer has also grown and developed in Edgemont through various traditions that exist on the Edgemont teams. The Edgemont Boys Varsity Soccer team dresses up in a formal shirt and tie for special games, including playoff games and the Homecoming game, as well as wearing beach attire before other big games. Also, after the last practice of the regular season, team dinners were held as a way to fuel and excite the team for playoff games and help build team chemistry. Although seemingly insignificant, these team traditions and non-soccer related activities have helped with team spirit and continue to unie the players.
The building of team chemistry off the field is crucial for a better match performance, and, as time goes on, these Edgemont traditions will only grow to become more powerful, important, and popular. Similarly, the Edgemont Girls Varsity Soccer also held team dinners and lunches for the same reasons. These traditions are clear indicators of how soccer in Edgemont has grown in popularity over the last couple of years and how unique traditions are working to create a team spirit that will lead to stronger and stronger Edgemont soccer teams in future years.
Even though soccer may not be the most popular sport in America, development of young players and an early introduction to the game have helped to increase soccer’s popularity here at Edgemont and elsewhere in the U.S..