Sunday, April 29, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Soccer balls were kicked in the recent windy weather by the tiny feet of about 300 elementary school-aged students participating in the One Goal At A Time Soccer Program tournament.
“We want to get them moving, keep them out of trouble and get them more active,” program founder Jerrad Clancy said.
After months of matches between elementary schools, students in this league played in a tournament at the Charlie Kellogg and Joe Zaher Sports Complex Thursday on Washington Avenue and Buffalo Drive, Clancy said.
“It gives kids direction,” Clancy said of the program he started 10 years ago.
The 33-year-old Squires Elementary School physical education teacher, with the help of another PE instructor, founded the program for schools whose students come from low-income or at-risk families.
A decade ago, the program included a couple of elementary schools and about 60 students. Now more than 300 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students from 10 elementary schools participate in the annual program.
“It’s a passion,” Clancy said. “I use to play soccer at the collegiate level. I love soccer.”
Clancy expanded the program to include such schools as Squires, Hayden and Elizondo elementary schools.
Each school has three teams. Squires has two boys teams and a girls team.
Students are recruited for the teams based on grades, teacher recommendations and, “who might not have the means to afford an outside league,” Clancy said.
The program is free to students. Gear, uniforms and transportation to the tournament and other schools for games during the season are paid for by supporters such as Amerigroup and After-School All-Stars Las Vegas
Clancy said the teams don’t keep track of winning games, but instead give a special award based on a value the program tries to teach its students: sportsmanship.
Once school per year is honored with the One Goal At A Time Soccer League Sportsmanship Award. Hayden Elementary won the trophy last year, and this year was Squires’ time to shine.
Coaches from each school vote on which team displays the most sportsmanship.
Students win the award by being encouraging on the field, or by helping someone, Clancy said.
“Showing that you’re not bullying or being disrespectful to the other teams,” student Jayla Scott said. “Show good character.”
It’s the 11-year-old’s first year playing on Squires Elementary’s girls team.
Scott said she thought “it would be something fun to do.”
Many of her friends were on the team and having grown up with two brothers, she developed an interest in sports.
Scott said she’ll continue to play soccer and other sports as she gets older — and when she’s not pursuing her academic goals.
“I want to be a lawyer,” Scott said. “I like to prove my point.”
Clancy said soccer gives students focus while they’re having fun.
At the tournament, each student received a donated soccer ball and water bottle.
“Their eyes and their faces are just happy,” Clancy said.