By Jeff Glosser
Director, Strategic Educational Alliances
It is 4 pm, and tonight is going to be a special evening. The 10-year-old boy comes home from school and immediately puts on his soccer uniform – the shiny jersey and knee-high socks. He laces up his cleats and even puts on his shin guards. His parents know that he does not have a game for his school or club team, so what makes this young boy so excited?
Tonight is the night he gets to go to Grand Canyon University and be part of the soccer team. He gets to meet the players on GCU’s Division I team and play on their field at halftime. He gets to eat pizza, celebrate a victory with thousands of people and end the evening with a fireworks show as he sits on the grassy berm with his best friends and family.
The game is not for another three hours, but this 10-year-old boy is so excited. As the clock ticks away the minutes, his parents finally tell him it is time to go, so he races to the car with his soccer ball and water bottle in hand.
As they maneuver through the traffic, he arrives at GCU. He races towards the inflatable Thunder, eager to get on to the field. The first people he meets are a group of college students who are part of the Canyon Christian Schools Consortium (CCSC) program. These students are volunteering 40 hours of service as a way to say thank you to GCU for a scholarship opportunity.
The first person greets this young boy with a high five and lets him know they cannot wait to watch him play tonight’s halftime game. The boy lights up with a smile and joyfully slaps the college student five.
The next CCSC students puts a wristband on the boy, which allows him access to be on the field with the college players who are becoming his new idols. The young boy tells the CCSC student, “That is going to be me someday!” as he points to the GCU players. “I want to come to Grand Canyon University and be a soccer player and play on this field in front of 5,000 fans!”
The young boy stands along the fence kicking his soccer ball when the first GCU player comes over to him. He asks the boy his name and which club team he plays for. The boy can hardly speak due to the excitement of his favorite soccer player talking to him. The GCU player tells him he will score a goal for him tonight, gives him a high five and returns to his pregame routine.
Other players from the boy’s team start to arrive. They immediately begin playing their own game on the grass berms in the north endzone. They play soccer for the next 30 minutes, imagining that the thousands of people entering the stadium will one day be there to watch them play on this field.
As it nears 7 pm, another CCSC student calls the young boy and his teammates down to the field as it is time to participate in the international walkout. They walk along the field in front of the thousands of fans that are now sitting in the bleachers, chests out wide, smiling and high fiving teammates.
The young boy and his team enter the tunnel near the locker room and wait for the GCU team to emerge. The door opens and out comes the GCU team. Each GCU player gives the boy a high five as they walk from the tunnel to the field. One grabs his hand and says, “Are you ready to run onto the field?”
The boy smiles wide. Smoke fills the tunnel and he hears the announcer call out the 2016 men’s soccer team from GCU. The crowd roars, and he runs through the smoke and out to midfield holding on tightly to the hand of his GCU player. He is running towards hundreds of college students, bodies painted waving GCU flags. He stops and turns around to see his parents and thousands of fans cheering him and the GCU team. Each player is announced and his imagination is running wild hoping that one day it will be his name called.
The national anthem is performed. A prayer is said.
And now it is time for the game to begin.
The boy runs back to the berm area and stands along the fence to watch the game. The game goes back and forth, but now GCU has a scoring opportunity. The pass is centered into the box, and GCU scores! The players all run to the fence where he is standing and begin celebrating the goal. The rest of GCU’s team runs down from the bench and begin jumping on each other. The 10 year-old and his team are jumping with them on the other side of the fence.
“This is awesome!”
As the game nears the end of the first half, it is almost time for his teammates and him to play their halftime game. CCSC students line them up, and they walk the line giving every player a high five and wishing them good luck. The clock hits 45:00. The CCSC students charge the field with 20 10-year-olds close behind. The goals are set, the whistle is blown and the game begins.
Playing on a special field is a lifetime memory – hearing the fans cheer for every shot and seeing his parents standing next to the field, his dad cheering him on while his mom takes endless pictures from her phone. For the next 10 minutes, this young boy is in heaven.
His team ends up winning 2-1 when the whistle is blown to end the halftime game. As he jumps around with his teammates, a CCSC student reminds him that there is pizza to celebrate. As he runs to the pizza line, six more CCSC students await him. They all congratulate him on the game, give more high fives and then hand him a piece of pizza and a drink.
The young boy goes back to the berm, with the biggest smile on his face.
“That was so much fun! When can we do this again?”
He and his teammates eat their pizza as the second half begins. Out he and his friends go onto the promenade in search of free cotton candy – another treat that evening. They run around for the next 45 minutes, full of happiness, memories and sugar.
As he goes back to the berm area near the end of the game to gather his soccer ball and find his parents, the announcer begins to count down the end of the GCU game. 10, 9, 8…
He hugs his mom and dad, looks up into the sky and shouts, “Thank you! I can’t wait to go to GCU!”
This experience has taken place 12 times this soccer season and with five more on the calendar. Many 10-year-old boys and girls are getting ready to put their soccer uniforms on and create lifetime memories.
Thanks go out to the men’s and women’s soccer teams, and the CCSC students for making dreams come true for many 10 year-olds throughout Arizona.
Grand Canyon University helps dreams come true for families in our community. To learn more about our outreach efforts, visit our website or contact us today.
More about Jeff Glosser:
Jeff Glosser is the director of academic alliances, working especially close with Catholic schools and Dioceses throughout the country and GCU’s Canyon Christian Schools Consortium. Jeff spent the previous 25 years as an administrator, teacher, coach and director of counseling at three Catholic high schools in California and Arizona. Jeff earned his undergraduate degree in business from Loyola Marymount University and his master’s degree in educational administration from California State University, Bakersfield. Along with his duties in Strategic Educational Alliances, Jeff also coaches club baseball at GCU and a youth baseball team in the Valley.