Sept. 27, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Typically, with a scheduled day off from practice, you wouldn't find the Missouri State men's soccer players showing off their fancy footwork on the pitch. However, Thursday (Sept. 27) was a different story as the Bears' soccer team took its talents east of campus to the playground at Rountree Elementary School.
There was no game film to watch on the youngsters. There were no scouting reports to look at. It was a pretty simple gameplan for the MSU men's soccer team as it took the field during recess at Rountree Elementary: go out and have fun.
Of course, there was a noticeable size difference on the soccer field Thursday. Throughout the day, the Bears had anywhere from three to five student-athletes at each recess period interacting with children from all grade levels. From the time they stepped foot on the playground, the friendly giants from the MSU soccer team were the main attraction.
For some of the student-athletes, it brought back fond memories of when they were kicking the ball around the playground. Sophomore Brandon Besong's experience with the Rountree fifth graders reminded him of when he was in elementary school.
"It takes me back a couple years to when I was in the fifth grade," said the sophomore from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "There are always a couple of kids in the group who really want to win and are very aggressive. I was one of those kids when I was younger and it was just fun to see."
While the Bears brought years of soccer experience to Rountree on Thursday, there was a least one thing that Besong learned from the fifth graders.
"Maybe wear some shin guards or ankle guards the next time around," Besong joked. "I got kicked in my ankle a couple of times and I don't even get kicked that hard in practice."
Missouri State head coach Jon Leamy believes that the outreach is a great way for his players to take a brief timeout from their everyday activities to see things from a different perspective.
"It's important for our guys to be around the youth," Leamy said. "The guys are able to give back to the community and pass on some soccer knowledge to the next generation. But, it's not all soccer. It's also about the relationships, the smiles and the dialogue they have with the young ones who look up to them."
The students may have recognized a few familiar faces in the crowd as the Missouri State men's soccer team was making a return trip to the nearby elementary school. During their preseason workouts in August, the Bears made the short trek over to Rountree to volunteer at the school's fundraising event "Owlapalooza."
Coach Leamy also indicated it wouldn't be the last time that his squad would reach out to Rountree.
"The school is right on the edge of our campus and is a part of the community where Missouri State is prominent," Leamy noted. "It is great to work with some kids from the neighborhood because we feel like this is our backyard."
A telling sign that the Missouri State men's soccer team left a lasting impression on at least one of the Rountree Elementary School students: a boy waving at Coach Leamy and the student-athletes departing, while shouting to his young peers, "Hey! There goes the Missouri State soccer players!"