Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles featuring the Lawrence soccer teams that participate in the Premier league of Hearland Soccer Assn.
"Poetry in motion" is how Coach Mauro Nobre describes a well-played game of soccer. When players come together to move as one efficient, graceful and tactical body, is the true sign of a good game. In all of Nobre's 20 years of coaching soccer, he knows a good game when he sees one.
"There is a certain poetry to the game when it is well played and everything is clicking," Nobre said.
The 9U Division 1 Kaw Valley Force is one of eight teams that Nobre coaches for the Kaw Valley Soccer Association. The 9U boys team plays in the premier league of the Heartland Soccer Assn. that is rife with competition and demands the poetry that Nobre delights in.
Nobre said the league dictates some of the most important things for his younger 9U players to focus on is having quick feet and speedy execution in games. The long-term goal is that these players will start building skills young enough to advance on to win state championships in high school.
"For young players the main thing we are focusing on are technical skills," Nobre said. "On the higher levels the games are played much faster."
Nobre said the 9U players were quick to learn these tactics and have set records in some of their first games, surpassing even his greatest expectations. He said every day of coaching allows him another opportunity to be inspired by the players' infectious love of the game and determination.
"The kids are fantastic and inspirational," Nobre said. "They play with such reckless abandon, their enthusiasm is contagious."
The 9U players have cultivated an especially palpable love for the game of soccer this year because this year is a World Cup year. This summer the World Cup will roll into Germany bringing fanfare and anticipation, and Nobre says the excitement is already building for his team. The World Cup will act to unite soccer fans and raise the game's profile around the world.
"I think this year will be the first World Cup my players will be able to really appreciate and enjoy," Nobre said.
But besides all of the excitement and hype and prestige, the investment in the game of soccer remains and is a big commitment. The players hit the field hard for two practices a week and keep busy in the off-season by playing Futsal indoor soccer. Once the soccer season officially begins for the team they make the trek every weekend to play games at Heritage Park in Olathe. It is also not uncommon for the team to make trips to Omaha, Arkansas, Topeka and Tulsa to play in tournaments.
Nobre said that for himself and the team all the miles, the sacrifices and the accompanying excitement are well worth it. It is all worth it in the end for the chance to achieve just a few minutes of poetry in motion during a 9U Kaw Valley Force premier soccer game.