It's 10/15/18, which means it's Soccer Day in New York City.
With 10 new New York City Soccer Initiative mini-soccer pitches opening up across the five boroughs today, we caught up with Annamaria V. Giordano, Principal of Thomas C. Giordano MS 45 in the Bronx, one of the schools which will be cutting the ribbon on their new pitch today.
Over to Annamaria to tell us what it all really means...
My father began his career in this community and was an assistant principal, but then opened the elementary school down the road and became the founding principal there. In order to honor him and the work he did, they renamed this school after him when he passed away.
When they asked me to take over here, it was a hard decision to make because I didn’t want to fill his shoes. I wanted to be Annamaria but I also wanted to be Tom’s daughter because it’s an awesome thing to be. When I came here and thought about the work he did, I wanted to do even more for the community. My father was all about community. That’s all he worked at. He was born here. He grew up here. He died here. His whole life was about his community, so every day I think about how I can impact that in just a little way.
My father was a great athlete. He loved all sports. He’d have the radio on in one ear, while watching another sport on TV. I’m one of five. Sports was a way in with dad. We used to play softball in that field. I was here every Saturday playing in that schoolyard, so to be able to have my students play there whether it’s soccer, baseball, softball, the memories are awesome. I always equate sports with my father. I can see my father being like, “This is the work I’ve done all my life and now it’s going through Annamaria.” It’s about continuing the work he did. It’s about having these kids be part of our community and be good people because of sports. All of those core beliefs that people have: to be a good person, to have sportsmanship, to be kind, to help one another, that’s all the work he did forever, and I hope I can carry that on in the work I do.
My students, male and female, they either want to play basketball or they want to play soccer. When we play other sports in physical education, they’re not interested because they want to be the next Pelé. In this community, there are no teams. They don’t have a place to go. Now with this pitch, this was this first year two of my teachers decided that they wanted to start a soccer club in our school. It’s just bringing everyone together. Everybody wants to be on the soccer pitch. It’s great to see people around the pitch just watching the kids kick the ball and running around like kids are supposed to do. Not one video game. Not one cell phone. It’s amazing. There aren’t too many places in our community where kids can play. This park is full on the weekends. Families come, and mom and dad are with the kids which is critical. How awesome is that to have that time together? Parents, sons, daughters at the pitch kicking the ball around. It’s a great way to get families together, and outside being healthy.
I know academics are very important, but I also think kids need to do non-academic things here with us after school so that they have a place to be so they’re not home alone or in front of the television. Kids become more connected to us as individuals. There’s a different relationship that is built between students and staff once it’s an after or before school program. They feel a sense of connectedness to that staff member. This is your home for as long as we can be open. I do see students become a little kinder and more compassionate when they join a sport. This soccer pitch is a big thing and it is what the kids really want. I can’t imagine how much change is going to happen in some of these kids. They need to feel part of a community, and it makes a world of difference.
We have to grow with the community and with the times, and soccer is one of the biggest sports. We need to step up to what the kids want so that they will perform and do their best all around. I think this soccer pitch came at the perfect time for them. To be able to be outside and use that pitch, I’m so excited for what can become of my students and the community.
Kids come to play on the pitch and they don’t always know each other, and yet everyone’s allowed on. It doesn’t matter your color, size, or shape. Everybody is included and inclusive when you’re on that pitch. There’s that saying, “Build it and they’ll come,” that’s what’s happening. Who knows, I could have the next Mia Hamm out on that blue pitch. It’s all about giving them the opportunity.