Nenana Student Living Center
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The Nenana Public High School provides education to Alaskan students from Nenana but also from many Alaska Native villages across the state. The Nenana Lynx Coed Soccer Team has been participating in the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) sponsored Co-ed Soccer League since 2001. Before 2001 no students were playing soccer in Nenana. Dean Overbey, the school's history teacher and Athletic Director, Chuck Hugny, science teacher and soccer coach, and students decided to put a soccer team together. Interest was high from the start despite the fact that the Lynx had no soccer field of their own, no goalposts and all their games had to be away.
In 2002 the school bought soccer goals and practice soccer balls. The Lynx continued to practice on Nenana's softball field as the year before. There was so much student interest in soccer that the City council of Nenana agreed to designate an entire city block for the team to use to make their soccer field. The block is on the edge of town and at that time most of the land was wooded with spruce, birch and aspen trees. Volunteer parents, players and community members worked on the field clearing about ¼ of the block with chainsaws and hauling the wood away.
In 2003 the Lynx still practiced on the softball field but the team showed great promise by finishing 3rd at the state co-ed soccer championship. This is without home games as we had no home field. The field completion was out to bid but the price was too high for the District or City to fund.
In 2004 and 2005 volunteers re-cleared the soccer as willows and aspen trees begun to take over again.
By 2006 and until 2012 the City and volunteers had done much to get the field near completion. Over 35,000 yards of fill was donated and an additional 3000 yards of pea gravel for drainage. This was loaded, hauled and spread using the city of Nenana's heavy equipment and hundreds of hours of volunteer time. About 90% of the block was cleared to make room for the soccer field, a track around it and parking off the road.
What needs to be done (updated 04/17/13)
The soccer field is situated next to the Nenana Student Living Center. The cost to finish it has been estimated around $10,000-$12,000. This cost includes buying and trucking peat from Fairbanks to Nenana and mixing it with silt from the Tanana River using Nenana's heavy equipment. The $8,000 gathered here will be used to cover expenses including buying and transporting peat, grading, crowning the field, ditching, and seeding the field. Our design also includes a fence, bleachers for the teams and spectators, even some electricity for concession stands but these are secondary goals.
With your help and that of other participant individuals and companies, as well as some grants, we aim to raise a satisfactory sum to have a brand new field by the beginning of the coming soccer season in September 2013. Construction can start as soon as the snow melts...which this year could take a while.
Why build a soccer field:
- Significant student participation. Every year at least 25 out of 100 students play soccer.
- Health benefits: As any sport activity, soccer improves the physical and mental health of participants.
- Multipurpose green space. The soccer field could potentially be used for other sports such as American Football.
Few words for soccer romantics (well you read this far!)
Soccer is the beautiful game. But there are attitudes and behaviors that injure soccer, specifically when competition is losing its true purpose, throwing sportsmanship out the window and becoming a win or die situation.
Anyone who has played competitive soccer knows of the attitudes I am talking about; trash talking, threatening, outright violence. These behaviors derive from a feeling of entitlement to victory because one does not lose, because one is the best..even before the game starts. These attitudes are widespread and have given competition a bad reputation.
Being competitive is about challenging yourself and your team and overcoming obstacles. Winning or losing are just outcomes in the process of becoming better in meeting the challenge. A team that has fear of losing, therefore reacts badly when it happens, has stopped becoming better and has compromised.
In compromising, a player and a team lose access to what makes sports, and soccer especially, awesome; the chance to win against better opponents. The chance to completely lose yourself in the game, to step up with your teammates, to show heart with your team and why not? Win. I do not know many people who have memories from 'easy' games. Most of them remember moments of the one game they won against all odds or lost at the last moment.
The point of these musings is this. Co-ed soccer in Alaska's small schools still retains that pure competitive element that makes the game fun and beautiful. The fact that it is co-ed is actually an advantage. The level of competition does not suffer at all because, unlike other team sports, soccer allows for a variety of body types and skill levels to participate and actually make a difference in the game. Yes, boys are faster than girls but it is really fun to see the tiniest girl throwing the biggest boy off the ball because she knows how to plant her feet on the ground.
The students in the co-ed tournaments play their hearts out every soccer season and they do it with style and sportsmanship. They meet the challenge, compete and then joke about it after the game. There is no yelling, no cussing, no spitting, no dirty fouling, and no fighting. Alaska style soccer captures the essence of the game.
And this why it is important to support and promote rural Alaska co-ed soccer any way we can.
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