Red pens, Schoolloop posts, text-heavy PowerPoints, scribble-filled whiteboards. Teachers are often associated with, well, teaching. But not every word uttered by a teacher is about sentence structure or derivatives. Some words are whispered in private, muttered in thought, or for some teachers, shouted in a field. Whether their education speaks of Spanish or history, for one group of teachers, soccer is their field of interest every Wednesday. On Fridays, former lawyer Jon Stark takes a team to a different court, in the field house. There they play dodgeball together every week, but they aren’t dodging duties. Their jerseys mark not a different identity, nor an uncharacteristic activity, but, still as teachers, a different part of their lifestyle.
It all started with a shirt. MVHS was offering a slew of pre-made t-shirts for order, with prints such as ‘ski team.’ A group of teachers, including Spanish teacher Molly Guadiamos, were captivated by one shirt in particular.
Video by Derek Shao
“We finally decided that dodgeball was the funniest of them,” Guadiamos said. “And then one teacher goes, ‘Well...are we going to play?’”
Those who had innocently ordered dodgeball shirts formed the MVHS teacher team. Guadiamos called up old colleagues from Homestead High School, and in the pursuit of fun and fundraising, convinced all five FUHSD schools to formulate their own dodgeball teams. They began to hold full tournaments, charging $5 admission for each, all of which went to charity. Masters of Ceremonies, huge crowds, students cheering on their schools’ teachers — the tournament was a success. But success for MVHS would soon lead to the demise of the tournaments.
According to Guadiamos, after around five years, the other schools grew bored of participating in tournaments only to continuously lose to MVHS. Winning most of the categories, MVHS was too strong, perhaps, for their own good.
Shortly after the tournament’s disbandment, math teacher Jon Stark called together the teachers again, and the team reunited. Now they take a breather every Friday to play a friendly match with each other and sometimes, with students. The student champions from a student-only tournament, as a prize, would face the teachers. Guadiamos notes that the students have been highly competitive, but teachers have no mercy.
With powerhouses like social studies teacher Nick Bonacorsi and English teacher Frank Ruskus, teachers have demolished the students nearly every single time. Yet, despite their competitive spirit, the teachers make sure not to lose the fun of dodgeball.
“It’s a game. It’s athletic in the sense that you’re running around and throwing things, but I wouldn’t put it up with things like the Tour de France or Major League Baseball or anything,” Stark said. “But it’s a heck of a lot of fun.”
In fact, the team avoids allowing students to watch their scrimmages, since doing so tends to involve cheering and booing that adds stress and judgment to the fun atmosphere. They play for the sake of playing.
“We just show up and throw things at each other,” Stark said. “It’s great really. Everyone likes it.”
A plastic dome was their arena. At 7:30 p.m., 12 players took the field, clad in their classic purple and white. Among them were three MVHS teachers: social studies teacher Andrew Sturgill, social studies teacher Robbie Hoffman and science teacher Pooya Hajjarian. This is the team’s fourth season playing at the Silver Creek Sportsplex in Evergreen.
Video by Akshara Majjiga
“We had all just talked about it like, ‘Hey, we should play soccer together,’” team manager Hajjarian said. “We’re a pretty close-knit group but just having something to do together that’s not school-related or work-related is just really nice.”
The Skunks, named after Hajjarian’s childhood soccer team, play every Wednesday some time between 6 and 10 p.m. Their games are composed of two 25-minute halves.
The team was originally brought together by Hajjarian, who noticed Sturgill dribbling around a soccer ball one day when Hajjarian was coaching the MVHS boys soccer team. They struck up a conversation and planned to play soccer together on Saturdays, inviting Hoffman and science teacher Kyle Jones along. This was about a year ago, and last June, they decided to join a soccer league together.
“When we’re out here,” Hoffman said, “we win, we lose, it doesn’t really matter to us.”
This Wednesday, the score seemed insurmountable at the half, but the Skunks fought back, ending with three goals, including one from Sturgill. Hajjarian stood at the sidelines as the temporary coach, unable to play due to his injured leg. Still, he shouted encouragement across the field. The team described it as a difficult game, but spirits were still high as the team walked off the field.
“I’ve been an athlete my whole life,” Hoffman said. “So every time I get on the field and there’s a clock and there’s a scoreboard, there’s always going to be a competitive nature to it, but in the end it’s all fun.”
One by one, as the team filed out of the sportsplex, Hajjarian yelled to every passing teammate, “Hey, good job, man. See you next time.” They smiled and waved as they got ready to make the 30-minute drive back home.
It may have been a tough day, but as Hoffman says, “It’s a win, even when you lose.”