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Obama drops in on soccer practice

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David Jackson, USA TODAY, The Oval , August 23, 2013
President Obama speaks with soccer players. (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD, AFP/Getty Images)

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Just another high school soccer practice in New York state in August — except for when the president dropped in.

President Obama and his bus, en route to a town hall at Binghamton University on Friday, stopped to chat with soccer players at Tully Junior-Senior High School in Tully, N.Y.

“I was driving by and I thought, you know, I need to kick around a ball a little bit,” said Obama, who proceeded to do just that for a few minutes.

Three teams of Black Knights spoke with the president: girls junior varsity soccer, girls varsity soccer and boys varsity soccer.

“How’s it going everybody?” Obama asked. “How long ago did practice start?” (8 a.m.)

“How are you guys feeling?” he said. “Did you practice during the summer? … What grade are most of you in?”

Obama, who will spend Friday wrapping up a two-day bus tour of New York and Pennsylvania, cited the reason for the trip: promoting his latest education plan.

“I’m traveling around the area talking about college, making sure that young people can pay for it,” he said. “I’m assuming everybody here’s gonna want to go to college? So part of what we want to do is make sure that whatever school you decide to go to that you can afford to do it, get grants, loans and don’t end up having too much debt.”

At the prodding of a coach, one girl told Obama that meeting the president had been on her “bucket list.”

When Obama asked the girl how old she is, she said 9.

Obama said, “Here’s the general rule: When you’re 9, you don’t need a bucket list. When you get to be 52, then you might start wanting to draw one up. But you’ve got a lotta stuff going on ahead of you.”

Obama asked the girls’ teams, “Can you beat the boys?”

Yes, came the reply.

“If I go over there and tell them you said that, would that be OK?” Obama asked.

One of the girls replied, “Bring it!”

While visiting the boys’ team, Obama said, “Can I just say though, I hate to stir up trouble, but the girls said they could beat you. … I’m just saying. That’s what they said.”

The boys disputed that assessment.

When Obama repeated the comment about “bring it,” one of the coaches said, “That was probably my daughter.”

On his way back to the bus, Obama greeted some school administrators and parents, one of whom asked about his soccer skills.

“They were trying to recruit me!” Obama said. “I told them I was too old.”

He added, however, “I’ve got some game.”

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