Christian Deehan, a sixth grader at Long Valley Middle School, loves soccer. The left-midfielder has been playing since kindergarten on a variety of teams throughout the year, and can’t seem to get enough of it.
So when his social studies teacher, Mr. Marciano, asked the class to come up with a service project, Christian knew exactly what he wanted to do: share his passion of the sport with other kids.
“I knew I wanted to teach kids how to play soccer,” Deehan said, “but it couldn’t just be anybody who can learn in a (recreational) league.”
And from that, the idea to teach physically challenged children was born. Christian looked into a few different options and found Belleville’s First Cerebral Palsy Center of New Jersey.
Christian, his friend Cassie Montgomery, brothers Patrick (eighth grade) and Stephen (fifth grade) will assist in training the 63 students in grades kindergarten through 12. Christian’s younger sister, Noelle (first grade) will help out with distributing drinks and snacks to all the participants.
Christian and Cassie came up with a game plan to teach the students, which includes dribbling, kicking, and throwing the ball into play.
“I’m a little nervous,” Deehan said about teaching such a large group of students. “But I think it’ll be fun to do.”
Deehan and his assistants will conduct two training sessions on Tuesday, April 19, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and noon to 2:30 p.m. Students taking part in the training sessions will get a t-shirt with the program’s name, Get A Kick Out Of Life, and logo printed on it, which was conceptualized and designed by Deehan.
Also helping the team of young trainers will be John Cella, staff member with Major League Soccer’s Red Bulls. Deehan reached out to the team via email and explained what the service project was, and the team responded by making Cella available to assist with training.
The group of trainers will bring their own food and drinks, which were donated by Deehan’s siblings’ classmates. The sixth grade soon-to-be instructor expressed his gratitude to everyone who’s helped with the process and donations, since without them the project may not be successful.
When the training is complete, Deehan is required to write a report on the experience and bring evidence of the event in the way of photos.
But the smiles on the faces of 63 children playing soccer for the first time, thanks to a friendly peer, will likely be proof enough.