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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Computer scientists take to the field in soccer league

The league has grown into a source of community and friendly competition for students from all class years.

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The Boolean Ballers, one of the computer science soccer league teams, is pictured.

Cheers erupted from the teams lining the sides of the field. The Files of Kicks had just scored an equalizing goal, propelling their team into contention for the final game. It was April 30, 4:30 p.m. and there was an important soccer semifinal game taking place. No, not the Bayern Munich and Real Madrid Champions League game in Munich, but rather a game taking place across the world in Medford, Mass. These were, after all, the semifinals of the computer science teaching assistant soccer league.

Brisk temperatures, winds and overcast skies did not deter the teams and a few fans from coming out to Bello Field for the end of season playoffs. The Boolean Ballers were about to reestablish their lead with a cutting pass through the defense but the Files of Kicks goalkeeper came up with an expert stop. The game ended tied, and the teams gathered as the rules were announced for overtime. A few moments later, the teams eagerly took back to the field, subbing every few minutes on the fly. The energy was palpable.

In its third semester of existence, the league has expanded from five teams in its first semester to six, each with around 14 students. After a semester full of games (each team playing twice in 30-minute games), April 30 marked the second and final day of playoffs for the teams.

Fifth-year masters student Luke Ito started the league with some friends and spoke to the team’s informal beginnings.

“We just sort of started doing a semi-organized soccer league amongst a bunch of friends,” he said.

Now, the league has grown, almost doubling in size. More people attend the weekly games, making more substitutions possible.

Senior league organizer Avi Shein expanded on how the league has grown.

 “Yeah. I think we [have] 95 kids in the Slack now, [while] in the previous semester we had 50,” Shein said.

Shein also spoke to the inclusive nature of the league: You don’t have to be an experienced soccer player to join; all backgrounds and levels of players are encouraged to take part.  

“A lot of people in the beginning have a bit of hesitancy. I have heard plenty of times ‘I haven’t played soccer since kindergarten.’ And the point isn’t to play soccer, it’s for the community,” Shein said.

Senior Amelia Cook is one of those individuals who expressed some initial hesitancy toward joining the league, but now she plays every week and is a captain of one of the teams.

“I didn’t play at first because I was so nervous ... but I went and hung out because it was a cool group of people,” she said. “It was nice to be outside, watch people play a game and cheer people on.”

Younger students have also enjoyed an opportunity to join the league. Willa Andrade, first-year computer science TA, shared that despite not having played soccer since fourth grade, she had fun and felt she made an impact on the field.

“Last game I got my career high: 3 points in one game,” she said.

In order to make all the teams competitive, the captains have a multistep process for drafting teams. After each player self-evaluates their skill level, the captains meet and pick teams, making sure skill levels are evenly distributed. So far, this practice has ensured that no single team dominates.

Ito explained that he really appreciates this aspect of the league because it makes the games more entertaining.

“It’s nice that we can have every team make the playoffs and any team can make a run. It’s awesome. It makes the playoffs very fun,” he said.

Beyond playing the game, Ito shared that building community was one of his original goals in creating the league and seeing the impacts of the league has been rewarding.

“Seeing these freshmen and underclassmen who are just starting to TA … seeing people who are just starting to integrate themselves into the Tufts community and seeing this be the way that they do that is amazing for me,” Ito said. “Because it means that I’ve helped people to get something that I think [is] super necessary.”

League participants also spoke to how their participation has helped them feel more a part of the computer science community. Andrade emphasized that her favorite part of playing is getting to know members of the Department of Computer Science.

“The team bonding aspect is really fun — we have parties and I’ve gotten to know a lot of different people,” she said.

Cook agreed. “I think it’s definitely a really good community. It’s made me meet a lot more people in the department,” she said.

Another way the league is connected to computer science is through the team names, which are all based on computer wordplay. This semester, players are members of either the Black Concats, Ctrl+Alt+Defeat, Purple Pythons, Name TBD, Boolean Ballers or the Files of Kicks. 

While the league isn’t exclusively made of computer science TAs, most participants have a connection to the department or were brought in by a friend.

“I would say probably 85% are TAs,” explained Shein.

In the future, Shein and Ito hope to pass down the league to upperclassmen so that it can continue to bring people together. Ito emphasized that so far he has really enjoyed leading the league.

“It’s been a great experience founding and leading it,” he said. “The whole point of it is to sort of bring people together in a ‘non-competitive, [yet] competitive’ environment where anybody can thrive and anybody can participate.”

Cook concurred. “It’s competitive, but it’s not super serious. … It’s just a lot of fun. It’s very chill. It’s very active.”