Hilton Head High soccer team lends a hand at neighborhood tutoring center

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Hilton Head High soccer team lends a hand at neighborhood tutoring center

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Monday, April 30, 2012   |  724 Words  |  

On a Wednesday afternoon, tucked in the back of The Oaks apartment complex on Hilton Head Island, a pack of elementary school boys runs up and down a former tennis court playing soccer.

They shout as they play, urging each other to kick the ball through tattered nets. They are cheered by the Hilton Head Island High School boys' varsity soccer team, providing quick feedback and keeping the ball in play.

A boy who scores the winning goal runs down the "field," face aglow with victory, and loudly slaps the hand of one of the high school players in an exuberant high-five.

After the game, the children talk excitedly about tricks they've learned from the team -- moves with names like "rainbow" and "scissors" -- to fake out opponents or show technical skills.

But they know it's not all play.

"I've learned to be a better sportsman," said Iban Frias, a fourth-grader at Hilton Head Island Elementary School. "You do things like saying 'good game' of if your team lost, you make them happy."

It's those types of lessons that Neighborhood Outreach Connection founder Narendra Sharma wants the boys to learn from the weekly clinics hosted by the high school soccer team.

The boys take part in the clinics following an hour of after-school tutoring and homework help held in two apartments in The Oaks. They work on math worksheets and reading exercises, using some of the same curriculum used in the Beaufort County School District, under the direction of volunteer tutors and two elementary school teachers.

The children aren't allowed to play soccer unless they've worked hard, both in school and at Neighborhood Outreach Connection. If they misbehave during the clinic, they have to sit out.

Hilton Head High soccer coach Wayne Quinlan said he emphasizes the importance of good behavior and working hard in school when he talks to the students after the clinic.

Last week, Quinlan gave Iban a prize -- Hilton Head High soccer shorts and a gold soccer ball pin -- for his hard work and good behavior in school. Iban was nearly speechless as he held the shorts and the pin was attached to his shirt. The other boys crowded around him excitedly.

Quinlan said he's already noticed a difference in the boys in just three weeks of the clinics. The first week, only two boys raised their hands when he asked if they had a good week in school. The others seemed almost proud that they hadn't, he said. On Wednesday, almost all their hands flew into the air when he asked.

Hilton Head High senior and soccer player Tyler Betts said he's noticed a difference in conduct, too. The boys used to boast a lot and heckle one another, but they've cut down on that, he said.

"It helps them focus on their work and gives them something to do, rather than run around unorganized," he said.

The Neighborhood Outreach Connection tutors agree it's making a difference in the boys' lives, even making them more focused on school work.

"It adds to their level of motivation," said Kristen Truz, a junior at Hilton Head High who has been volunteering at the center for two years. "It makes them feel special and gives them more than academics."

That's exactly what Quinlan hoped the clinics would do.

"Athletes and coaches have a tremendous amount of influence in today's society," he said. " ... Our goal is to use it for good and help those young kids shape their lives in a more positive direction."

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Area students celebrated during graduation ceremony for nonprofit summer school program; August 8, 2011

Helping kids learn: Neighborhood Outreach Connection, USCB students team up to tutor; March 15, 2011

Partnerships offer schools rewards, risks in tight times; Jan. 30, 2011