When The Howard School soccer team played at a tournament hosted in mid-March at Baylor School, Colleen Iorio, the mother of a Baylor player, heard that the rival school was in serious need of soccer balls.
Fellow Baylor parent Clive Bonnick, a Signal Mountain resident and assistant coach at Howard, told Iorio how the team had received a donation of used balls from Covenant College, but they wore out quickly and the players were again doing their best to practice sharing just a few balls among them.
Iorio spread the word about the need at Howard among the other Baylor soccer parents and collected monetary donations during the tournament. Baylor parent George Coogan, a good friend of Bonnick's and a fellow resident of Signal Mountain, had a connection with a sports equipment company and used the donations to purchase new balls, which he took, along with a ball bag and air pump, to Howard and presented to head coach Curtis Warner and Bonnick.
Warner noted that many players on the Howard team are economically disadvantaged and have to work rather than attend practice, sometimes even games. Many of the high school players, the majority of whom are Hispanic, are the primary earners in their households, said Bonnick, adding that in terms of talent, Howard has some of the area's best players.
Though there's still some sharing going on, the new balls allow the players more time to practice with balls individually, said Bonnick.
"It's made a huge difference in our ability to practice," he said, adding that the donation has also positively affected the team's morale. "The team's spirit is elevated because they know they have people in the district who want to help them. It renewed their enthusiasm and hope, because we look up to Baylor as one of the leaders in Chattanooga in soccer."
Following a 4-1 win against Red Bank High School April 26, the Howard team was seeded No. 1 in the district tournament that began last week. Howard beat Lookout Valley 14-0 in the quarterfinals, and was set to play East Ridge Tuesday, May 9. If Howard wins that game, the team will play in the semifinals Thursday, May 11.
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