By Rob Kean
One look at the Nashoba Valley Youth Soccer League scoreboard and standings from the recently completed fall season and it’s evident that Stow Soccer Club teams made their marks across all levels. Like the Girls Under-14 team, sporting a 5-2-1 record and finishing a solid 3rd of 14 teams. Or the Boys Under- 12 quad that went 6-2-0, outscoring their opponents 32-12.
But ask Stow Soccer Club President Art McDonald which game best epitomized the mission and values of Stow soccer, and he’ll tell you it was a match that, according to the record books,
never officially took place.
In their third contest of the season, the Girls U10 A team took the field against Clinton’s A squad, and for the Stow girls it was one of those games in the lives of athletes when everything went right, and right from the start. They led 6-0 at a point far closer to the opening whistle than final one, and with the Clinton girls starting to look demoralized, Stow coach Mark Harnett saw a teachable moment on the subject of compassion. He pulled his players aside, and reminded them of times in years past when they were on the receiving end of such beatings. He assigned them new positions, instructed them to work on their passing, and told them goals were no longer the goal. Neither team scored after that. Both teams had fun. And because U10 teams and younger are part of non-outcome based groups, with scores not recorded and standings not kept, that fun was this game’s only commemorated result.
And for McDonald, this result was all that mattered. “That game,” he says, “really made me proud to be a Stow Soccer guy.”
Good sportsmanship aside, it also proved that the Stow Soccer Club initiative of total developmental play is working. Explains Harnett, the objectives of SSC coaches like him are “not to win in any given season, but rather to bring a group of kids forward over a number of seasons. To develop each individual to his or her greatest potential as a player as well as develop a group of kids to be the best team they can be.”
Case in point, that U10 girls team of his, which started out three seasons ago in the lowest division of their age group, and now are one of the top teams of the 18 contemporary squads in the NVYL. And though Harnett downplays this elite status, or at least his role in it, his players are proud of their progression. When asked how it feels to now be part of such a well-oiled machine, Jenna Gagnon grinned and said, “It feels really good.”
These days, of course, players like Gagnon are part of more than one such machine, as most play on more cut-throat club teams as well, like Mass. Premier Soccer, or New England Football Club, which pull players from all different towns. A factor which, in Gagnon’s eyes, makes playing on Stow Soccer Club teams that much more fun.
“You play soccer with your teammates,” she said, “and then get to see them in school the next day.”
Other girls playing for Stow Soccer Club teams concur. “Stow soccer is great,” gushed Maggie Lorenzo-Keane. “You have friends for your grade but also friends from the grade above and below, so you get to see how lots of other kids play soccer and make great friends. You learn lots of new drills at practice, which has helped my game. Town soccer definitely helped me achieve my goal to be a better player and play on a club team.”
Her sister Gigi seconded that emotion. “Stow Soccer has helped me to feel more confident when I play my favorite game. I love soccer and love all my friends on my team. We play really well together. We are a true team.”
For her team, and all the other Stow Soccer squads, the indoor season has begun, while registration for the Spring season is underway, for age groups from Munchkins (age 4 ½ to 6) all the way up through high school – to keep playing the sport known as the “Beautiful Game” beautifully, in every sense of the word.