Monday, July 16, 2007

Sam's Blog - The Game is Back - July 16

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

I just spent the weekend in Kenner, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans; it is where the city’s airport is located. I conducted some coaching sessions during the Louisiana Soccer Association’s AGM. I worked as that state association’s Director of Coaching for 10 years and so many of the folks attending the AGM I already knew. It was good to see some old friends and to contribute to the coaching education for the state again.

The visit afforded me the opportunity to also talk to soccer folks who live in the area of southeast Louisiana about how daily life and soccer are making a comeback after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. We still hear from the national media from time-to-time how recovery is progressing, but we seldom hear from the people who are living the experience and rarely from our soccer family. So here are some of their insights to what happened during the hurricane and how soccer is slowly getting back on track.

Those who live in Orleans Parish and St. Bernard Parish (east New Orleans) suffered the most form the hurricane and flooding. But other communities to the west and north of New Orleans were hit hard by the hurricane too. Some of those who work in soccer as administrators, coaches or referees had their homes flooded and significantly damaged by the hurricane.

One coach I know who lived in the city had to use an ax to chop a way out of the attic for he and his wife when the flooding rose and rose. They were evacuated by a Coast Guard helicopter. One family having had their home destroyed and no water or electricity in their community went west to Baton Rouge and lived there for a while in the state association soccer office. In many cases soccer families from the devastated areas went and lived with other soccer families in other parts of the state, in some cases for two or more months until they could return to their destroyed homes.

They are now rebuilding not only their homes, but their soccer clubs too. One part of the aftermath of major hurricanes is that sports fields get used to store materials during the immediate recovery. This happened in Florida two years earlier when they suffered through four hurricanes in one month and also in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana after Katrina and Rita. Soccer fields, and other open fields, are used to place knocked down trees until they can be cut up and moved.

In the case of the New Orleans Soccer Academy (NOSA) many of their fields had FEMA trailers on them, up until two weeks ago. The club has suffered in numbers as only four teams are currently in the club as they city population slowly comes home and as facilities become available.

NOSA has fields on the campus of the University of New Orleans and most of them are on the east campus near a building known as the Pope’s Altar, so named because Pope John Paul once conducted a sermon there for 10,000 people spread over the soccer fields surrounding the building. Those fields have just now become available to the club to use again after the FEMA trailers have been moved.

The soccer family from across the nation came together and donated goals, uniforms, balls, you name it and it has helped leaders in the Gulf Coast region to provide the game once again for those living in the communities. Clubs in other states took in the players and most have now returned home. In many, many ways you reached out and supported your soccer family. I know from those who lived through it all that they greatly appreciate all that has been done. The beautiful game is back!

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