CITY, Ariz. The term rez ball may take on a whole new meaning
in a few years one where the nets are on the desert ground
instead of silhouetted against a reservation sky if a sports
movement started here takes hold.
rules supreme when it comes to sports on the Navajo Nation, but
the first baby steps toward making soccer a viable athletic option
for reservation youths are being taken by a group in Tuba City.
The group, sanctioned as Pilot Region 1440 by the American Youth
Soccer Organization, started play Saturday with 16 teams for players
ranging from age four to age 12.
is the top sport in popularity world-wide, and has slowly but steadily
grown more popular in the United States over the past 20 years.
It's yet to reach the reservation in any organized way, however.
As an example, Shiprock is the only District 1-4A member that doesn't
field either a boys or girls soccer team.
may not be true in the future, however, if the Tuba City experiment
grows from its beginnings on Saturday.
is big on the reservation, but I can see that," said Marci
Fowler, a Navajo and assistant coach for one of the Tuba City teams.
"Nobody has an idea what soccer is (here), but we want to make
something out of it."
genesis for organized soccer on the reservation came from Dr. William
Orman, a pediatrician at the Tuba City Regional Healthcare Corporation.
He's the head of the soccer organization in Tuba City and hopes
the sport will catch on at other areas of the reservation, such
as Crownpoint and Shiprock.
think it would be a good thing for the other Navajo communities,"
Orman said. "It would be nice if it would spread to some of
the other communities on the reservation."
rest easy, basketball purists. Orman and others don't want to replace
hoops on the rez, just provide another athletic outlet and, more
importantly, get children to exercise more.
a pediatrician and that is probably the main thing," Orman
said. "The reason we got the hospital involved is to get the
kids more active and away from the TV sets and video games.
active experience is a good thing for our kids and soccer is a very
is, of course, another benefit for the young people.
for the fun of it," Fowler said. "As long as you're having
fun an it gets you out of the house, it's positive."
saw soccer being played in Flagstaff and wanted to bring it to the
reservation. His employer helped with the startup.
has a 10-year-old son, so that was another motivating factor in
his desire to bring soccer to the reservation. But he's not a soccer
aficionado, and that's true for most of the groups board members
lot of them are in the same boat I am," Orman said. "They're
not experts on soccer."
isn't deterring anyone, though. Around 125 children have signed
up for the program, almost as many as are taking part in a little
league baseball program started a few years ago by one of Orman's
was not too surprised," Orman said of the large number of kids
who signed up for the sport. "Sports have always been popular
here on the reservation.
real question is 'could we get parents to sign up?' It's actually
gone pretty well. We've got coaches for all 16 teams and three-fourths
of those have assistant coaches."
organization stresses the philosophy of letting every child play.
was an incentive for me," Orman said. "We let anyone play.
It doesn't matter what their level of ability is."
Orman said, soccer isn't an expensive sport to take up, requiring
just a ball and net. "Soccer is a very simple game, equipment-wise."
with just a net, a ball and some interest, soccer matches could
become as commonplace on the reservation someday as pickup basketball
games are now. Even if it never replaces hoops as the most popular
sport on the rez, soccer could in the future provide kids with more
opportunity for exercise, and fun.
would like to get to the point where they like to play soccer and
play it on their own," Orman said.