One of the magnificent things about sports is its unparalleled ability to bring out the kid in all its participants.
The Los Angeles Blues, a semi-professional men’s soccer team based in Fullerton, demonstrated as much last week at Salk Elementary in Anaheim.
“Our goal at the YMCA is to promote healthy lifestyles. And what better way to do it than soccer,” said Donna Frey, program director for the Anaheim Family YMCA, which hosted an all-star game with the Blues and Anaheim students.
Thirty children from after-school programs at 15 different elementary schools in the Magnolia and Savanna school districts formed two soccer teams, and were allotted three Blues players each.
Captains Shay Spitz, 25, and Cory Miller, 24, served the same position for teams Mean Machine and Pup ‘n’ Suds, respectively.
“The players love it. They love playing soccer with the kids,” said Sem Ibrahim, director of sales and marketing for the Blues.
“It’s something that Cory and myself, and all the other players, are really honored to do,” Spitz said following the game. “We get the opportunity to come out and work, and have fun, with the kids.
“We can only hope that the kids had as much fun as we did.”
In its second year, the all-star showcase is the brainchild of both parties.
“The LA Blues contacted us, and they wanted to do something with youth programs,” Frey said. “We talked about the different ways that we could get kids out to their games, and what they could do to come out and spend time with the kids.”
In addition to raffling off various items â€“ such as a soccer ball autographed by the entire Blues team â€“ each child in attendance received a ticket to an upcoming game.
“The Blues have been able to build up a relationship with the YMCA â€“ something that’s been mutually beneficial to both parties,” Spitz said. “That’s the best kind of relationship we can have. We get to come out and have fun with the kids, and they’re always at our games supporting us. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Mean Machine won the 90-plus minute game, and was awarded a three-foot-tall trophy. Each child received a smaller trophy for their participation.
Spitz, Miller and their teammates then signed autographs.
“They definitely look up to us,” Miller said. “It’s nice because I’ve been working with (the YMCA) before this, and it has culminated in one event that they can look forward to.”
Winning wasn’t what made the day worthwhile, of course.
It was, rather, the opportunity to join their soccer idols on the pitch.
“You have kids from different households, and they all come together for one thing, especially with something like sport that attracts everybody,” Miller said. “All the kids these days are all about sports, so we have a huge influence and a huge responsibility to get involved however we can.”
By BRIAN WHITEHEAD / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER