The two groups of teenagers squared off. They sized each other up, staring at their rivals’ colors. The leaders of the two opposing groups met in the middle of the old field, and sides were taken.
Spectators gathered, anticipating a hard-fought battle by two groups bent of dominating the other.
As the now-early evening chill took hold of the park, darkness began to creep in. The soon-to-be combative parties looked up and wondered.
It was getting late. The lights to the field should have come on by now. The leader of the group in dark blue made a call.
Moments later, he passed on the bad news. The light would not go on. There would be no battle. Apparently, the very light and almost unmeasurable rain the night before had triggered a closure of the field.
With that disappointing news, the parents, coaches and players of the Tracy recreational soccer league gathered their gear and walked off the more-than-playable field.
As our city is challenged with the ever-increasing problems with gang violence, demands have been made to increase police presence. With money being short, costs are being cut at every opportunity. As the economy spiraled down, Tracy’s demographics changed. A small town that was relatively crime free now had nine murders in two years.
Just when one would think that we need as many youth programs available to keep the children busy with organized sports and after-school programs, the city of Tracy took a stance on saving the life of its lawns.
As the dozens of teenagers and their families went home again without being able to play, many wondered where the city’s priorities are.
This weekend, Tracy was represented by five of its recreational youth soccer teams that made their way to Fremont to compete in the Northern California Soccer Association’s Founder’s Cup. The tournament matched the best non-competitive youth soccer teams in a four-day event to crown the Northern California Division Four Championship.
After a highly entertaining weekend playing some of the best recreational teams in the state on a huge field in Fremont filled with hundreds of kids playing soccer, we drove back to Tracy with our heads held high.
Driving along 11th Street, we glanced over at the Tracy Sports Park and saw the closed and empty fields. We continued down 11th Street and saw again the vast emptiness that was Plasencia Fields.
I could not help but wonder just what is wrong with our city. Why would we allow our fields to go empty, simply because there had been some recent rain?
Do we want our kids playing soccer and taking out their energy and aggression within the rules of an organized sport, or would we rather contribute to their free time of social networking, hanging out and — much worse — gathering in groups wearing colors not sanctioned by a youth sports team?
As a city in search of answers to the increased crime and gang activity, would it not make more sense to invest in youth sports and activities that help supply that support structure many kids need?
Just what happened to the days when kids could simply go down to a park or school ballfield and play? In today’s world of paid permits and ridiculous use limitations, no wonder our kids are not outside playing.
When did a little precipitation begin to demand a city shut down its youth sports? At what point did we decide that our parks are simply meant to look pretty and not be used?
While it’s understandable to close a city park based on a significant rainstorm, do we really need to shut down all our fields when the ground becomes soft? While damage to the lawn is inevitable, what is also true is that, unlike the hair upon my bald head, the grass will simply grow back.
While our team did its best to represent our city in the state Founder’s Cup this weekend in Fremont, one could only wonder how they could have played if they would have had a field to practice on for the past three weeks.
• Brian Williams has been a Tracy resident since 1993 and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.