Name: Sequoyah Shirley Vasquez Hilton
From: Capitola, California
School: Soquel High School
The strident blow of the whistle resounds; the soccer ball rolls
aimlessly as the players halt their excited movements and shift their
attention to my explanation for pausing the game with wild eyes that
yearn to resume the match. It was the summer after I graduated middle
school, and my family assumed critical roles in running the
operation; my brother, the schedule coordinator; my dad, who coached
all five age groups; my mom, the registrar; me, the sole referee.
Despite my young age, I was assigned the important responsibility of
refereeing the games. Though I originally protested such a large time
commitment, hoping to spend my evenings hanging blithely around town
with friends, my cries fell on deaf ears, and there I remained for
five hours a day, four days a week. Despite my early whining at the
unfairness of my parent’s edict, I quickly learned that providing
stability and order throughout the game was crucial, as this Family
Resource-funded futsal league provided an opportunity for low-income
families to participate in an organized sport for free. I ensured the
games ran and transitioned smoothly while enforcing sportsmanlike
conduct strictly. When the gym unlocked from five to nine in the
evening, the excitement from all players and families was palpable.
Kindergartners gleefully wore their favorite professional player’s
shirts, roleplaying as if in the big international leagues.
I noticed the parents, fatigued from rushing over after work, were
invigorated with competitive energy as soon as I blew the
introductory whistle. Daily, for hours, I was able to watch the kids
wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to every game, enthralled by the
opportunity they had never had before. Throughout the duration of the
program, I began to take more notice of the intricacies of my
surroundings; Swarms of jubilant children, ages five to eighteen,
swarming every inch of the gym, friendly rivalries forming creating a
competitive zeal, and relationships between the coaches and their
players grow with each game.
Initially, I had no intention of spending my precious summer break reffing. When
my parents and I arrived to unlock the gym, a swarm of kids grinned,
waiting eagerly for the keys to click open their doors of paradise.
It was clear how much the activity meant to their parents, knowing
their children were spending their summers productively. Playing with
my own competitive sports team, a luxury I had always seen as an
everyday fee for my parents, seemed like a extravagant grandeur that
I arrogantly took for granted.
The effects of this program have been increasingly profound, as I have
seen the numbers of participants grow every year. Allowing every
child to participate in recreational sports abolishes the idea of
excluding financially-challenged children from receiving a plethora
of enriching activities that instill important values within them, as
well as simply enrich their childhood as a whole. After all,
recreation should be universal amongst kids, as something as minute
as economic class should not differentiate opportunity for children
to have fun playing what they love.