SEBASTIAN — Jovanny Torres wasn’t sure what kind of response he would get from Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School students when he asked at the school’s open house about starting a soccer team.
The response was overwhelming.
Twenty kids – including four girls – signed up to be a part of the inaugural squad. Season one kicked off in September with a roster chock full of players who never played the sport, but were eager to learn.
Fortunately, Torres, who is the PECS athletic director, played soccer while growing up and was glad to add soccer coach to his duties.
“I know the sport,” he said. “So when they said we could have soccer, but we don’t have a coach, I said if I start it I can coach it, too.”
Torres said the addition of soccer hasn’t hurt the school’s only other fall sport, volleyball, which remains a popular option.
He said several kids on the soccer team were using the sport as an opportunity to get into shape for basketball in the winter.
The first order of business was to order uniforms, shin guards and balls. On the field, practices were held with just cones on a field with no lines and no nets; the latter were on order.
Plenty of instruction was required at practices, including explanations about the rules of soccer, which for those unfamiliar with the sport, can be confusing. Case in point: offsides.
“They didn’t understand the concept,” Torres said. “You can go as far as (an opponent’s) last player. It really all depends on where (the opponent) is lined up; that’s what they didn’t understand.”
Offsides, no doubt, can be as frustrating for new players to learn as it is for new fans to watch.
PECS played a game against a team whose defense was high and then played a game against a team whose defense was low, leaving PECS players perplexed as to why they were called for offsides in one game if they were in the same location as the previous game when they weren’t called for offsides.
“They’re like, ‘Coach, but I’m standing in the same spot as last time,’” Torres said.
Although the team lacked experience in its first year – Keenan Jones was the only player who had played on a soccer team – there were some highlights from the newbies.
“Aundre Baker really surprised me. He’s probably the best player on the team and he’s never played soccer before,” Torres said.
Finding someone who wanted to be the goalkeeper wasn’t difficult. Santana Alvarez did more than just volunteer to be the keeper; he also excelled in the position.
“He’s a football player, so he’s pretty aggressive and he wasn’t scared to get hit with the ball,” Torres said. “He asked to play goalie and I said sure. If it wasn’t for him, we’d lose a lot worse. He gets at least 10 or 12 saves a game. He’s come up big with us.”
When PECS played its first game, the lines on the field, including the goalie boxes, were all new to the players.
They had practiced on a field without lines. Torres said it took some time for his players to adjust to proper position play.
PECS was scheduled to have a six-game season, but two games were cancelled, including the season finale at Sebastian River Middle School on Oct. 10.
A 90-minute bus trip to Sebastian was essentially wasted when the game was cancelled due to no referees. PECS still wanted to play even without referees, but Sebastian River nixed that idea.
By season’s end, the PECS team featured a roster of 14 players, including the four girls who initially signed up. The league is co-ed, but Torres said he didn’t see any girls on other teams.
Torres has encouraged all his players to continue playing during the offseason in recreation leagues or elsewhere.
“I told them the more you play, the better you get,” he said.
PECS didn’t have any home matches this season because the team was formed so close to the start of the school year, but Torres hopes games will be played in Brighton next season.
“We’re trying to set up a field behind the pool. It used to be a football field. We ordered soccer goals. They haven’t come in yet. We just use cones for practice,” he said.
As for a season one summary, Torres said the primary goal was for the players to enjoy their debut with soccer.
“We’re just out there having fun. They’re learning a new sport,” he said.