The positive power of sports in a community is illustrated convincingly in “One Goal,” the story of how soccer became a healing agent in Lewiston, Maine. Racial tensions in the poverty-riddled former mill town grew as thousands of Somali refugees flooded the remote, overwhelmingly white city of more than 36,000. The arrival of more than 7,000 African immigrants was a jarring development that threatened to split the community apart until the Lewiston High School soccer coach saw an opportunity to bridge the differences between the locals and the newcomers with a powerhouse team that mixed the groups on the field as it set about becoming the first state soccer championship team in Lewiston history.
Here’s an excerpt from One Goal:
“There is no such thing as a part-time player in Lewiston. After a practice or a game, the kids go out and play again. Coaches never need to ask them to work on a skill; it’s a given that they are never done.
“ ‘Our opponents?’ says Abdijabar Hersi, one of McGraw’s assistant coaches and the first Somali hired by Lewiston High School’s athletic department. He laughs. ‘They’re part-time soccer players. When people ask me, “Why is Lewiston so good?” I say, ’It’s a part-time soccer player against a full-time soccer player.’ And there’s a big difference, you know?’
“Coaching kids who prioritized soccer kept [Coach Mike] McGraw and his staff on their toes.
“ ‘I had to expand my game beyond just the hockey and baseball and basketball players that would have come out, that made soccer their second [sport],’ says McGraw of the shift. ‘I had to change, I had to up my game to stay with them. Because they knew a lot.’ ”