Soccer and its impact on the PHS community

February, 2024
Katie QinGabriel AndradeThomsen Lord

As the clock counts down and anticipation rises, thousands of soccer fans from all over the world cheer for their favorite team, eyes glued to the ball on the field. Whether they’re watching in person or online, it doesn’t matter who scores; each goal is met with roars of excitement. At the end of the game, every fan feels even more connected with the team they were rooting for, whether they are celebrating with them after a well deserved win or supporting them through a tough loss.

Soccer, also known as football, is one of the most popular sports in the world. There is a reason for this—soccer is more than just a sport; it is a force that promotes solidarity through competition and inclusion. As a versatile sport that requires little costly special equipment, soccer can be played by people from all walks of life. So it is no surprise that soccer, and its close variant futsal, have a huge presence in the PHS community.

Ryan Walsh, math teacher and head coach of the PHS soccer team, spoke passionately about soccer’s role in encouraging inclusivity and community spirit.

“[Soccer] is a sport that brings together individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences,” he said.

At PHS, apart from the girls and boys soccer team, there are clubs like the Futsal Club that students can join to play the sport outside of the soccer season. While soccer is normally played outdoors, futsal can be played inside and uses a smaller court, making it even more accessible for students. These communities within PHS bring students from all different backgrounds together through intense and fast-paced but fun competition.

Nicholas Matese ’24, the current captain of the boys soccer team and leader of Futsal Club has made several important changes. He made the club even more welcoming by expanding futsal throughout the PHS community.

“We expanded the team limit to allow for more people to have a chance to play,” said Matese. “Not only does it get more players involved, it also creates a larger fan environment.”

Matese is also proud of the positive influences that the Futsal Club has had, particularly the convergence of diverse people who would not have met under normal circumstances. He pays particular attention to the needs of different players in order to make futsal enjoyable for everyone and promotes understanding and communication.

“We also make efforts to ensure those with special needs have an opportunity to play, and it is great how inclusive the rest of the players are to everyone,” Matese said.

By actively seeking out new members interested in the sport, the Futsal Club has become a place that transcends traditional barriers that may otherwise usually prevent people from communicating with each other. By providing students with the opportunity to bond and improve, clubs like the Futsal Club truly reflect the PHS’s core ideals: pride in diversity and striving for excellence, and how these ideas fuse together into a unique and inclusive environment.

The community that is built from the PHS Futsal Club and other areas of PHS has translated over to the high school’s soccer team, which showed their prowess by winning the Group IV State Championship in 2023. Success stories like these only continue to enhance Princeton High School’s community in essentially a positive reinforcement pattern.

Reflecting on the recent triumphs of the PHS soccer team, including the Group IV state championship victory in 2023, Walsh stressed the great impact of soccer on the broader community.

“Seeing alumni, who played at PHS five to 15 years ago, and community members passionately enjoying this once in a lifetime moment with the current team was special to see,” said Walsh. “This celebration represents the power of soccer to transcend generations and create lasting connections in the community.”

Indeed, soccer at PHS extends beyond the playing field; it is a promoter of personal growth and development. Through prioritizing the importance of sportsmanship, respect, and positive engagement, Walsh and his coaching staff try to teach valuable life lessons that extend far beyond athletics.

“Winning [soccer] games is just one aspect of being a head coach. More importantly, I want to turn teenagers into good standing young adults.” Walsh said.