PS 120 students talk soccer with New York Cosmos

By Graciano Clause

Players from the New York Cosmos professional soccer club teamed up with state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) at PS 120 in Flushing last week to kick off a series of free soccer clinics.

More than 30 students showed up Feb. 11 at the school’s gym, at 58-01 136th St., where they had the chance to participate in soccer activities while also learning the importance of physical education.

“I am proud to team up with the New York Cosmos to bring free soccer clinics to PS 120 so that students can further their learning and development outside of the classroom,” Rozic said. “As budget cuts continue to strain programming in New York City school areas, such as the arts, foreign language and physical education, it is important that we invest in alternatives that make these vital resources available to our local communities.”

Representing School District 26, which covers the northeast side of Queens, Rozic mentioned that her district is owed $43 million in terms of services and resources from the state of New York, school programming included.

PS 120 was the site of controversy last year, when more than 100 students whose families could not pay a $10 admission fee were banned from a school carnival. In the wake of that incident, Rozic and PS 120 Principal Robert Marino got together to bring a physical fitness program to the school at no cost. That’s when Rozic contacted the New York Cosmos to set up a partnership.

The Cosmos, current champions of the North American Soccer League, captured their second league title in three seasons and the seventh overall last November.

“They are a great New York sports team and I’m a big soccer fan. I think having the New York Cosmos, with everything they stand for, right here in Flushing with a diverse and active community seemed like a natural alignment,” Rozic said.

Cosmos midfielder Danny Szetela highlighted the importance of promoting physical education.

“I think the most important things for these kids is to have fun. Once you stop having fun, then you lose your motivation,” Szetela said. He mentioned that he grew up in Jersey where he had gym almost every day and emphasized that sports is one of the best ways to stay healthy.

“Sometimes during the school hours you don’t want to learn math and it gets frustrating listening to your teacher, but when you have that hour to go and play with your friends in gym class, you free your mind,” Szetela said.

The free soccer clinic session was run by the club’s training and development head coaches, along with Szetela, midfielder Eric Calvillo and striker Luck Mkosana.

Marino was ecstatic about being involved in the event.

“When you have something like this where the Cosmos are willing to come in and donate their time and resources to expose children to soccer during a meaningful event, it’s something that can spark a path towards a hobby, sport, or even a career,” Marino said. “I see that students that came from schools that valued physical education, not only adapted better to our physical education curriculum, but seemed to be more respectful than children who had not been exposed to organized sports,” Marino said.

Another clinic will be held at PS 120 March 2. For more information on upcoming clinics and the Cosmos, visit NYCosmos.com

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