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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017
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Rowdies player a hit with Montessori students

TOWN 'N COUNTRY - With arms stretched into the air and his face brighter than a 1,000-watt light bulb, Nicolas Puente couldn't veil his excitement. "He has experienced our power!" Punete, 8, shouted to friends on the concrete basketball court. "He" would be Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer forward Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who paid a semi-surprise visit to Community Montessori School on Civic Road to speak with the kids and show them a few soccer drills. Yoshitake, whose 2-year-old daughter, Sara, is a student at the school, arrived with his wife, Masumi, and 4-month-old son, Kent.
Following a drill in which Yoshitake tried to keep a cluster of three hard-charging students from a soccer ball within a squared boundary, he joined in the shenanigans. "I understand," Yoshitake said laughing, "everybody's better than me." He made sure each student who wanted a chance at knocking the ball out of his possession got a chance. Surprisingly — perhaps intentionally — a few were successful. It was simple interaction for the 30-year-old from Mie Prefecture, Japan. But he hoped the children grasped the significance of the exercise. "To have fun and try their best," Yoshitake said through Kiyo Jannereth, a staff member at the school, who translated. "The most important thing is to have fun, but to do that you have to do your best and you have to communicate well with your team." As kids darted around on an expanse of grass behind the school chasing soccer balls, Head of School Nancy L. Bowman said Yoshitake's visit elicited something from her students. "I think it'll make the biggest impact on the children who don't play as well," Bowman said. "The ones who play well already know they play well, but the ones who don't play well – I'm seeing children participating who I am very surprised they're willing to participate. "That's a pretty big impact and then you can pool all of them together. I think it'll make a huge impact." Children who Bowman categorized as shy before Yoshitake's visit were in full throat and at full speed during the afternoon visit. "I think it's just nice to see the real thing," Bowman said. "They see and hear stuff, but [Yoshitake's] a real person and he has children and they see that, so it's more real." As roughly 30 students lined up in front of him, Yoshitake, who began his professional playing career in 2000, asked the kids how many had been to a Rowdies game. Only a few raised their hands, which drew a guttural, yet playful "ugh" from the second-year Rowdies player. Almost on queue, a voice to Yoshitake's right side allowed: "It could be more after this." "For kids it's significant to go the stadium and also have an interaction with the soccer players," Yoshitake said through Jannereth. "This is a good opportunity for me, but also for the next generation of soccer players."

edaniels@tampatrib.com (813) 371-1860 Twitter: @EddieDTampaTrib

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