Every Saturday morning during April, the Bowdoin men’s and women’s soccer teams participate in Brunswick Parks and Recreation’s Kick Start soccer program, teaching as many as 75 to 100 children aged five to eight. It’s a tradition every April that has run for many years in which college players inspire confidence and love of the game in the youth. 

Peter Mills, assistant coach of the men’s soccer team, manages the program, He gives the Bowdoin student instructors tasks for each session when they arrive in the morning such as teaching dribbling or passing. 

For Rachel Noone ’19 the program is a mechanism to bring her closer to her teammates.
“As a team, being together and serving a purpose greater than your team beyond just winning transcends just soccer,” said Noone. “It builds friendships—on the field you know your teammate that much better because you share that experience and also go the extra mile on the field in that season.”

Rachel Stout ’18 noted the joy in working with the children themselves. 

“It’s awesome to see the smile you can put on their face and change their day over such a simple thing as soccer,” said Stout.

She also fondly recalled her group’s love for the game and energy.

“They love the scrimmages and come up with silly cheers and names like the ‘Bowdoin Flames,’” said Stout.

Beyond the fun and games, Kick Start can be challenging at times. 

“Sometimes it’s a grind getting up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, but it’s definitely worth it,” said Noone. 

Stout recalled the difficulty at times of working with so many kids at once. 

“[There are] typical kid things [like] throwing tantrums, messing around or crying because they miss their parents, but it’s manageable because you can distract them by playing soccer,” said Stout. 

“They always want to wrestle with you or something, or they want you to give them a piggyback ride,” said CJ Masterson ’19. “But if you give one kid a piggyback ride, then all of them are wanting a piggyback rides and they’re all just climbing on you.”

Despite the difficulty of marshaling close to 100 kids at 8:30 in the morning, Masterson has found that the relationships he has built with the community are rewarding. He specifically noted a connection with a player named Noah. 

“I was at Sears one time getting a tie, and he was there with his dad, and he introduced [us]. He was really excited to see me,” said Masterson. “That was a community experience that was really solidifying.”

Most of all, Masterson enjoys the program because of the joy it brings him.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s really nostalgic reliving your best soccer days as a kid when you’re six years old,” said Masterson. “It becomes the highlight of your day.”