The passing of the torch is traditionally associated with the Olympics, but local soccer enthusiasts are making it a Westport custom as well.
In celebration of another global sporting event -- the FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil -- dozens of Staples High School players decided to share their experience and enthusiasm with the younger generation. More than 100 kids from grades kindergarten through eight assembled on the fields Sunday behind the high school to work out at four stations with the older players to learn skills, have fun and enjoying a chance to mingle with others in the Westport Soccer Association, which boasts 1,400 players.
"It was really cool to connect with the Staples players," said Alexa Frost, 12.
"It makes us want to work," she said. "I want to be on the Staples team."
"They're a lot of fun, and they're very encouraging," Anna Coleman, 12, said of the high schoolers.
Along with a clinic and food cart offerings, the event culminated with a collective viewing of Sunday's U.S. vs. Portugal game in the auditorium on a big screen.
"I think it's a great community event," said Glenn O'Neill, who helped coordinate things on the field.
"I think it's nice for the Staples kids to be giving back," he said, noting that most of the high school teammates got their start in the sport in the WSA system.
"Today is about fun and creating memories for these little kids," said Dan Woog, the Staples varsity soccer coach. "For many of them this is their introduction to the World Cup. We want them, 30 years from now when the World Cup comes around, to think of having fun here."
Woog, who grew up in town and has coached soccer for decades, has long been a soccer enthusiast. The World Cup, he said, highlights amazing athletes from sometimes little-known nations at the top of their game.
According to Todd Coleman, the WSA president, the Staples players themselves organized Sunday's events. "We like to see a Staples program that is very well organized," he said, "and it gives a sense of community."
"I think it's a wonderful experience," said Randy Chalker, whose 5-year-old son, Colton, took part. "It's exciting for the kids to get a little energy out and get ready for the big game, and still build in a little instruction for the sport in general."
"It's nice that Staples would go out of their way to organize this for the town," said parent Golda Villa, whose 8-year-old son participated, "and everybody's so into soccer right now because of the World Cup."
"I think today especially is awesome because it's not every day that the World Cup is going to come around," said Noah Schwaeber, 16, varsity goalie for the Wreckers team.
"Staples is trying to teach these kids what the sport is all about," he said, "and at the same time supporting our country."
"I think it's a great way to bring the community together," said Grant Sirlan, 15, a Staples player. "I think Staples soccer helps create a tight-knit community."
"It was really fun," Ava Geismann, 12, said after the clinic. "And it made me better at soccer."