Volume 76, Number 12 | August 9 - 15, 2006

The DUSC Dragonmoms and their kids at the Goals For Hope Tournament

Playing for worthy cause was the Dragonmoms’ goal

By Judith Stiles

When their soccer team got beaten badly all day long — that is, hammered in the first game, 8-0, clobbered in the second game, 8-1, and crushed in the third game, 8-3 — their own motherly words of wisdom came back to haunt them.

“It’s only a game girls, don’t take it so hard!”

This team of women called the Dragonmoms from the Downtown United Soccer Club, honestly believed they were prepared for the Goals For Hope Soccer Tournament, having practiced faithfully every week for the past year. Even though they began the tournament with the goal of winning, after three big losses, they simply shrugged their shoulders and returned back to New York City, feeling satisfied that they accomplished their main mission of supporting the Miles For Hope Breast Cancer Foundation.

“There was a joy in the tournament as we played soccer, listened to music, ate food and had a fun time,” recounted captain, Shannon Carr. “There was also a sorrow in the moment of silence, in the recognition that we were playing to raise money to battle a deadly disease, and that each year the tournament honors a woman who has died from breast cancer,” she added.

This is the Dragonmoms’ third year of playing in the G.F.H. tournament. Less than four years ago, this motley crew of women got downright tired of standing on the sidelines and just watching their kids play soccer. They found a coach, organized their own training sessions and scrimmages and learned to play soccer at the ripened ages of 30 to 54 years old.

“From playing soccer myself, I learned it is not so easy. I don’t scream in Japanese at my daughter Mina anymore from the sidelines,” said Kimie Kobayashi, laughing.

One of the perks of being on the Dragonmoms is that at least twice a month the daughters and sons join in the games, where mothers and offspring can enjoy time together that is not sedentary.

“Actually playing soccer with my daughter has made the game less abstract and I recognize that it is important to encourage your children and allow them to progress at their own pace,” said Cindy Sirko, who plays goalkeeper and fullback.

For Sirko, the benefits of soccer have been enormous and have spilled over into her daily life as an executive at Armani.

“It has definitely helped me train my staff better and has given me a much better understanding of group dynamics, especially how to teach a diverse set of people how to work together for a common goal,” Sirko explained.

For striker Marjorie Gateau, taking up soccer forced her to quit smoking, and she added that it taught her how to be more aggressive in a healthy way. Gateau no longer is huffing and puffing. Rather, she zipped around the field and scored the only goals for the Dragonmoms, including a hat trick in the last game.

Teammate Maggie Caruso took up soccer late in life because she simply does not enjoy going to the gym or doing solo sports. Her daughter Guilietta was glad that her mom is playing soccer and added, “Whenever my mom plays, it gets out all her stress and anger and she comes back home in a good mood.”

The Goals For Hope Tournament has raised over $300,000 to support Hudson Valley women — and their families — as they go through treatment for breast cancer, according to captain Carr, who persuaded the Dragonmoms to participate. These Greenwich Village footballers eagerly made the trek Upstate to LaGrangeville, where the games were held, only to find that this year they were bumped up into a more competitive division.

“We were old enough to be our opponents’ mothers,” mused Caruso, adding that she was relieved they all walked away with no injuries.

Next year, the Dragonmoms look forward to being in a more age-appropriate bracket, with another year of training under their belts. As midfielder Kazuko Takizawa mused, “I am proud to be playing soccer, and even my son’s teammates think it is cool that I am on a team and went to a tournament.”

Now, every Wednesday night the Dragons shed their makeup, forget about their hairdos and put away their fancier clothes of the workday, to train with their coach, Manny D’Almeida.

D’Almeida “doesn’t see us as a group of crazy ladies. Rather, he takes us seriously and teaches us to play soccer,” noted Carr.

The Goals For Hope tournament has a special meaning for captain Carr, who has attended every year.

“For me, as a survivor, I am reminded how thin that line between joy and sorrow, life and death is,” Carr said earnestly. “I am reminded to embrace as much living, playing, laughter and friendship as possible, because life can be taken away so quickly.”

Play on, as they say in soccer.

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