The idea started out as a humble gesture to get 14 eighth-grade soccer players to feel a little more confident about themselves. Two days later, the boys' soccer team at Zia Middle School all dressed out in shirts and ties before their big game Thursday night against Lynn.
“I wanted them to know they’re not only representing Zia Middle School, but they’re also representing the best version of themselves,” said Zia athletic director and assistant principal Emanuel Hernandez. “Wearing a shirt and tie is a life skill they can carry with them – for job interviews, special occasions, or just when they want to look their best. Some of these boys are the men in their house, so we wanted to help teach them that.”
Hernandez, along with head coach Joseph Lincecum and assistant coach Robert Torres, made a request on social media to get shirts and ties donated to the team, instead of burdening parents with one more thing to buy. The post explained that Hernandez, Lincecum and Torres, all wearing shirts and ties themselves, wanted to ask athletes to dress up on game days to demonstrate professionalism and pride in their team.
“I’m asking if anyone would like to donate button shirts and neck ties,” the post read. “Sizes range from adult small to adult extra-large.”
The donations poured in. Within 24 hours, the team had all but three shirts. A few hours later, the shirt request was also fulfilled.
“I feel good,” said 13-year-old E.J., who plays defense for the team. “Before this, I had never won a tie, but I feel good.”
“We try to build community here at Zia, and this is part of it,” said Lincecum, standing in front his well-dressed team. He was showing E.J. how to make a perfect knot in his tie. “We want to build space for each other, be a team, and know that we can depend on each other.”
“We respect it,” said Phoenix, 13, the goalie for the team.
Hernandez says he hopes to take his best-dressed team a step further.
“It would be nice to get slacks,” he laughed.
The Zia Thunderbirds play the Lynn Cougars Thursday night at 7 p.m. on Field 2 at the Provencio-Van Dame soccer fields off Hadley and Solano in Las Cruces.