By Kristin Schultz
It’s a new year and there’s a new coach for the Niskayuna High School varsity soccer team, and that means new traditions, too.
On Aug. 25, the Silver Warriors swapped shin guards for shovels and volunteered to clean up the grounds at the School at Northeast. They spent three hours pulling weeds and spreading mulch.
The School at Northeast is a coed special education program for up to 150 6th through 12th graders. It is a program of Northeast Parent & Child Society.
“Each year the program does a team-bonding event,” said Terrence Sloan, Niskayuna’s new coach. “I had this idea of we’ll have the event but let’s give back to the community.”
In years past, the team has bonded over recreational activities like whitewater rafting.
“Instead of bonding by having fun for ourselves, we’re helping others,” said Jimmy Joyce, the team’s goal keeper and a junior.
The team worked from 9 a.m. until noon grooming the grounds in preparation for the start of the school year.
Grounds crew members Chris Leaper, John Quintana and senior maintenance specialist Michael Keller all said that the team did a good job, were a big help and were absolutely welcome to come back.
All in all, the boys spread 100 bags of mulch.
“We rolled up our sleeves and got to work,” said sophomore midfielder Saidali Mesbahi. “We’re humbled.”
The soccer team loves the game and Sloan hopes volunteer opportunities will engender a love of community as well.
“They’re community members and will be future community members,” Sloan said. “It’s important to give back.”
Sloan teaches fifth grade at Page Elementary in Schenectady and for the past decade had been the varsity coach for Schenectady High School. When he brought up the idea of doing community service instead of going rafting, some of the boys weren’t so sure, but got on board with the idea fairly quickly.
Captain Alex Chan looked into various opportunities, including helping in area soup kitchens, food pantries and pet adoption clinics but the School at Northeast was the best fit.
“They took us in with open arms,” said Sloan.
The team also embraced the experience. All the students reported they would do it again.
“It’s a really great group of kids,” Sloan said. “I’m hoping that this lays the foundation for future years.”