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August 19, 2005

Students' dreams turn into a soccer team for Burgin

From: Danville Advocate, KY - Aug 19, 2005

Staff Writer

As the minutes ticked away toward the start of Burgin's first soccer game, the players were bursting with anticipation.

They had waited a long time for the day they could play for their school, and a 15-minute delay before the game did nothing to settle their nerves.

"I'm on the edge," junior Amanda Powell said minutes before the game began. "And when you're out here, you just want it to come on."

The 11 players who took the field in their new red and black uniforms worked hard for their chance to play, and they reaped the rewards of that work Thursday night when Burgin took the field for the first time in a scrimmage at Kentucky School for the Deaf.

It was the first contest for a program that was born last winter out of the dreams of a few students.

"I look at it as the first game Burgin's ever had, so it'll go down in history," senior David Barrett said.

Even before the Bulldogs won the game 7-0, they considered it a victory that they had made it this far. And after the game, the feeling was even sweeter.

"It feels really good," said Barrett, who scored five goals. "We proved we could do something."

Every program has to start somewhere, and this one started here: on a brownish field with no bench for the players and with almost no one watching when the game began.

But it actually started months earlier, when a handful of students started acting on the idea that their school ought to be able to field a soccer team.

"Really, it was at the request of some of the students," said Paul Brooks, who coaches the team along with his wife, Theresa. "Several of the students had played soccer and were frustrated that they couldn't have a team."

"We just kept plugging," Powell said.

Players were on a team in the Lexington indoor league

About two-thirds of the players fielded a team in a Lexington indoor league last winter, which their coach said did a lot to show the school that they were serious about soccer.

"I think they wanted to see the students' commitment," Paul Brooks said. "That was the proof really to both (athletics director) Don (Irvine) and (superintendent Dick) Webb."

The players raised money to help cover the program's expenses, and they even had a hand in picking their coaches. Theresa Brooks teaches at Burgin, and the students knew of her husband's background in soccer.

"They really found us," Paul Brooks said.

Paul Brooks played soccer at the high amateur level in his native England before moving to the United States six years ago with his wife, who is from this area.

"It's a challenge, but the fun is actually meeting that challenge and meeting the objectives in that challenge," he said.

"We believe we're the smallest public school in the state of Kentucky to field a soccer team."

Some of the players have played in local youth soccer programs - Barrett even played one season for Harrodsburg's middle school team - while others are new to the sport.

"Many of them have played some other sports, and it's fun to see them become soccer players," Theresa Brooks said. "They've become very skills in a short amount of time."

Seven boys and six girls

Their roster consists of seven boys and six girls, and the absence of two players Thursday left only 11 players and meant that there were no substitutions. The Bulldogs played a KSD team that had only 12 players.

"We graduated seven out of our 11 players last year, so we're pretty much in the same boat they are," said KSD coach Paul Smiley, whose program started from scratch only three years ago. "It's just the life of a small school. You work with what you've got."

Barrett got Burgin's first goal barely three minutes into the game, then added four more. Junior Peter McEachearn and freshman Codi Pulliam also scored for the Bulldogs.

Irvine said he'd like to see Burgin's program grow to become a varsity sport, but the Bulldogs are playing only at the junior varsity level this season.

But the players said not everyone at their school shares that feeling.

"There's still teachers at school who really don't have faith in us," Barrett said. "I think we pretty much proved to them we could do it."

Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2005