Every spring a young group of Osage boys lace up their cleats, strap on their shin guards and take to the soccer field in Ponca City.
While most teams in the Ponca City Soccer Incorporation play year round, the Indian Camp Warriors or IC Warriors for short, only play seasonal, yet they are two-time league champions in the 14 and Under Division. And they’re working on their third.
John Star Bighorse, a parent and coach of the team, said it all started out as an innocent idea.
He said the team started in the Bartlesville youth soccer league but there they found out it was more about the funds than the fun.
“We had the IC Warriors baseball team who wanted to play soccer so we developed a soccer team out of those boys,” Bighorse said. “When I found Ponca City, PCSI, Ponca City Soccer Incorporation they were more about the kids than the money.”
The first season was a hit. It wasn’t the easiest season but the team managed to get the job done and win their first league championship.
Bighorse wasn’t a soccer coach by any means and the boys weren’t soccer players either, but with a little bit of help the team learned quick.
“It was challenging,” he said. “It was a tough transition, but one thing I focused on was the hips and feet and agilities, and most importantly the fundamentals.”
Bighorse said before the boys became competitive he first let them play for fun. He said it was important to get them to love the sport before they took it a step further.
He said he saw a lot of natural talent in his team and knows they can continue to get better.
“They didn’t like when we came over last year and we beat them, but that’s why we found the fundamentals and the positions we put all that together and believed these boys could do it,” Bighorse said. “This is the future of soccer at Pawhuska High School, that’s my big picture of the whole thing, we’ve got the foundation . . . I’m hoping these boys will filter into soccer, not all of them but maybe some of them.”
T.J. Redcorn, 13, Ponca and Osage, hopes to be one of those boys.
He said he’s played soccer since the team started and doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.
“I just always enjoyed playing,” Redcorn said. “I like all the running and most of us have been playing for awhile, some of us just joined but we played basketball together and we just, we all know each other.”
Aside from the natural talent, and desire to learn, the closeness of his team makes them successful.
He said the hype of the team has already reached younger players coming up, parents and community members.
“They really lean on each other, when they see one another down they try to pick each other up, that’s one thing I try to influence,” Bighorse said. “The camaraderie, being together, being a team, they know they’re an IC Warrior. I had some kids they wanted to play soccer just because they wanted to wear an IC Warrior shirt and they wanted to be part of that, because that is a part of Pawhuska, it always has been.”
Bighorse’s son John Star Bighorse, 13, said his team is one of the many reasons he likes to play soccer.
He is an avid football and basketball player, among other sports, but said soccer is where he’s closest to his teammates.
“I always like making new friends,” he said. “It’s fun, you can always make new friends and you can always meet different people.”
While this season’s nine players are knee-deep in soccer knowledge they’ve acquired in the last two years, so is Coach Bighorse.
Bighorse said when he was younger he had a good friend who played football and soccer but Bighorse never understood the sport and because of that he didn’t like it.
“It’s taught me how to be open minded toward sports. I got a brother in law that doesn’t like it because he doesn’t understand it, I didn’t like it because I didn’t understand it,” the elder Bighorse said. “It gives them (the kids) the self esteem, confidence, a young Native American man growing up needs – not just in the classroom, not just in the world but its stuff like this, a little bit of discipline here and there.”
Morals and character building aside, Bighorse said the game also offers simple pleasures to young athletes.
He said when it comes to kids all they care about is enjoying themselves and he found that with soccer they can do that.
“It reaches out to other kids who don’t want to play football, who don’t want to run track, and who don’t want to play tennis,” Bighorse said. “I just want the kids to have fun.”