By Ida Ynner Lagerqvist
The LIU Post men’s soccer team visited Huntington Montessori School to read books and lead soccer sessions for students between the ages 3 to 8 on Friday morning, March 8.
The visit, which is the team’s second during the 2019 spring semester, is part of a program called Read, Run and Fun.
“It’s a mentoring program that is designed to get the players out in the community and to get them to interact with its youth,” head LIU Post men’s soccer coach Michael Mordocco said.
Arriving at the school, the players split up into two groups. One group visited the students in their classrooms, where they read to them. The other group brought students to the school gym for a soccer session where the kids ran around and played soccer related games.
In the classrooms, the reading mostly consisted of Dr. Seuss books, as March is Dr. Seuss month, but the students also listened to stories about dinosaurs and Pete the Cat. Ajani, 6, was especially interested in the dinosaur books and their pictures. There was one particular thing he liked in one of the books the players read. “There was a big dinosaur head,” Ajani said.
The program, Coach Mordocco said, is a great opportunity for his players to build character, mature and prepare for the future. “It’s healthy for them to communicate with people, whether it is children or adults, in different environments and different fields,” he said. “To be able to build relationships will benefit them and this program will kind of help facilitate that.”
Six out of the seven players who visited Huntington Montessori School are international student athletes from Argentina, Australia, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago. Even though some of them have distinct accents, the communication with the kids ran smoothly. “It’s a great interaction! The kids love them,” Jeff Rodriguez, head teacher for a mixed group with 3 to 6 year olds, said.
Rodriguez sees the culture differences between the players and the children as a great experience for his students. Last month they talked about diversity in his class. “We were touching on how we are all different, but how we should celebrate that and be appreciative of each individual, that we can all learn something from one another,” he said. “I think, by the team coming in and having everyone being from some place different, the kids can learn something from them. It’s nice for them to get a perspective from someone else.”
Rodriguez also thinks is nice for the students to listen to other voices, especially male voices. “I think it’s nice for them to interact with other men. There aren’t that many male teachers, especially kindergarten teachers, so to have the guys come in gives them a chance to experience somebody else and not just me or their dads,” he said.
The students aren’t the only ones who gain perspective during the experience. By visiting the school, Paul Hein, freshman defender and broadcasting major from Germany, had the chance to learn about the American education system. “It’s very interesting to get to know the American school system and what it looks like,” he said. “It’s interesting to see how they use the Montessori method.”
Junior physical education major Kyle Parish, a midfielder and defender, also thinks the experience has been valuable. “I’m trying to do physical education and coaching, so personally it’s a very good experience for me to see what I can use and improve on to further my education,” he said. He also likes the change of pace from the university. “To have a little bit of youth is very refreshing and joyful,” Parish said.
Rodriguez would love to see the team come back and he also thinks that more schools should invite university teams to interact with children. “I think this is a really nice experience not only for kids but for the team as well. I would really recommend this to other schools,” he said.
Parish is also in favor of more visits as he thinks the program creates a good relationship between the men’s soccer program and the community. “It provides a bond between the two, which I think can be very healthy for the years to come,” he said.
Coach Mordocco plans to continue the program. Although there are no future visits planned for the team, Huntington Montessori is hosting an international festival night on April 12 that members of the team will hopefully attend.
This article was originally published in the Pioneer, LIU Post’s award-winning student newspaper, www.liupostpioneer.com. The article is republished by Blank Slate Media with the permission of the Pioneer.