Students Loving “Clustah”

It comes as no surprise that soccer, the most popular sport in the world, has infiltrated the most diverse high school in America. Andover boys and girls engage in the sport at the Varsity, JV, JV2 and JV3 levels interscholastically everyday. For those students who do not wish to engage in that level of play but still have a love for soccer, the Intramural Soccer program provides sanctuary. Formery known as Cluster, or “Clustah” by the local, clam chowder loving Massachusetts residents, the sport combines the intense play of the World Cup with the team spirit of the English Premier League. Cluster has always been known as a rough and tumble league that has allowed kids who want to have a little fun in the hours after school a place to compete against their friends. However, because of the traditionally physical nature of the sport and the inexperience of the players, the rules have changed as of late, rocking the Cluster Soccer world. With the frequent occurrences of concussions and other legitimate injuries stemming from rough play, several changes needed to be made. For starters, the Cluster aspect no longer exists. In an effort to cut down on inter player feuding and violently expressed passion, which eventually would lead to a lot of injuries, the Cluster bonds were broken and replaced by randomly assembled teams. The other change made involved the logistics and rules of the game itself. Any spectator of the sport could quickly tell that Cluster takes a vacation from the conventional 11 vs. 11 style of play. In Cluster, the games consist of teams of five a side, and without a true goalie. Goalies are allowed, but the no hands rule is enforced like censorship during the Beijing Olympics. In addition to the no hands clause, headers and corner kicks are no longer performed on the Cluster fields. All of the above measures have been taken in an effort to keep the student “semi-athletes” safe. So far, the methods have been extremely effective. Even though new restrictions and player friendly rules now apply, fierce competition still remains. Players of the cluster kingdom gather at 3:15 pm, when the warriors of Rafferty Fields slowly congregate next to the fields. By 3:30 cleats are laced, shin guards are placed securely in socks and sights are being focused on the opponent of the day. With a whistle from the honorable Coach Penner, the 40-minute games begin. The games are composed of two 20 minutes halves, with substitutions every five minutes. Each team has eight or nine players; meaning full participation is not only encouraged but also necessary in order to achieve success. The best part about Cluster and probably the goal of the program overall is that every player, regardless of skill level, has the chance to experience arguably the greatest sport on Earth. Cluster Soccer is an experience unrivaled on this campus, and it is for that reason that students appreciate the sport so much. Ben Nichols ’10 best summed up the sport when he said, “Not only are the games rigorous and lots of fun, but the friendships formed on the field are by far the best part.” With enthusiasm like that and the fervor of the dedicated coaching staff, Cluster Soccer has shown no signs of wavering.