There are a number of words that could be used to describe the group of 8-year-old Maxwell soccer players that have taken the Williams Parks and Recreation League by storm this year.
Stellar, outstanding, exceptional – pick any number of synonyms for each those words and it would accurately describe the performance of the lone soccer team from the Maxwell Park and Recreations District in the Williams league.
There is, however, only one word that really captures the essence of their season thus far: undefeated.
On Sunday, the group notched their most recent win, taking the match three goals to nil in the final regular season game of the Recreation League season.
Although the time of the game is yet to be determined, on Thursday the team will travel to Williams once again, this time for as the number one seed for a playoff match.
If they win, they’ll find they’ll be headed to the championship game on Sunday.
“It has been exciting to see these kids come together and create a winner,” said first-year coach Phillip Diehl. “There are a couple of kids who play soccer, but most of these kids have been playing one to two years at most – and soccer isn’t necessarily a year round sport.”
Diehl said that when he volunteered to coach the team at the beginning of the season, he asked the group of kids whether they would rather win or simply play to have fun.
“They understand that I’m a pretty competitive guy – most of the kids have worked with me through basketball or baseball,” Diehl said. “They told me they wanted to win.”
In just a couple of practices a week, the group of kids under Diehl’s guidance has done plenty of winning.
“I have had incredible buy-in from the kids, and it’s been fun to watch them develop,” Diehl said.
The team – the only one Maxwell Park and Recreations were able to muster for this year – has to travel to Williams to find teams to play. There just aren’t enough kids in Maxwell to form a league.
“It’s kind of hard to put together full teams or leagues in Maxwell. We understood we were going to have to play in the Williams Parks and Recs League, and we really stepped up to the challenge.
The winning didn’t really come as a surprise for Park and Recreations Executive Director Kyle Miller.
“He’s coached basketball the last two years, and baseball for one. He’s a good coach, and I expected it,” Miller said. “He’s strict, and he expects a lot of his kids, but he’s great with them.”
The thing that Diehl expects most from his kids is sportsmanship – being gracious in victory, humble in defeat. They haven’t had much experience in the latter, but Diehl’s first priority is teaching his kids to show respect to the other team, he said.
“Sportsmanship is absolutely critical to me, first and foremost,” said Diehl.
The group has been so successful that Diehl is considering putting together a select team to play some tournaments the region after their season concludes.
“We’re at this point where we’re going to try to keep a number of these kids together and start playing in some select tournaments. We played a select team from Colusa in a scrimmage game and only lost 3-1 – we were actually tied 1-1 going into the half,” Diehl said. “That was a big boost to our confidence, even though they lost.”
The community support for that scrimmage was stellar, even with less than a day’s notice posted on a social media platform.
“We had probably 100 people at that game, and it was just a scrimmage,” Diehl said, adding that he was hopeful Maxwell would come out in droves tomorrow as well. “Thursday’s game is even more critical and we need even more people to come out and support.”
Thursday’s game will take place in the evening hours, although an exact time has not yet been announced. Check the Maxwell Park and Recreations Facebook page for updates.