Steve Kobren doesn't watch television. Instead, he plays soccer - sometimes eight hours a day. His devotion to doing instead of watching paid off Saturday when he won the national title in the 16-and-under division of the national Coca-Cola "Kick-Me" soccer skills championship.
A 15-year-old high school junior who doesn't watch TV is somewhat akin to a tennis player who doesn't own a racket these days.
"I just like soccer," he said. "And I'm usually too tired most of the time to bother watching the stuff." A solidly built 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, Kobren speaks softly, especially when talking about himself.
The finals of the "Kick-Me" contest were held last weekend in Portland in conjunction with the North American Soccer League championship game between the Cosmos and Seattle Sounders.
Kobren, who lives in Silver Spring and attends Springbrook High School, was one of 10 youngsters in his age group judged in five skills: juggling with one foot; juggling with two feet; juggling while running; controlling the ball with the head; and shooting accuracy.
At the end of the competition. Kobren found himself tied for first with two others. "It was really weird," he said. "I'd gone inside and started eating and they announced we were tied. We had to go back and have a tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker was in the running and juggling event. (Juggling in soccer means controlling the ball with your foot without letting it touch the ground.) The three youths had to dribble from midfield to the penalty box and shoot.
"They never told me what my time was or how much I won by, just that I won," Kobren remembered. I was just happy I won."
He had reason to be happy. The championship culminated a long summer of hard work. "I swear that kid practiced eight hours a day, seven days a week all summer," his father. Nelson Kobren said. The elder Kobren, who introduced his son to soccer, is athletic director of Mongtomery-Blair High School and is also commissioner of soccer officials in the Metropolitan area.
Steve is a center-forward on the Springbrook varsity. Last season his team finished with an 8-2-2 record, losing to state champion Churchill in the playoffs.
"I just really enjoy the game," Kobren said in explaining his devotion. "I have a goal set up in the yard and I shoot at that whenever I can. I have a friend who's a goalie (teammate Rob Cifelli and we practice a lot."
When he's not playing for Springbrook. Kobren plays for the Montgomery United Broncos, an age-group team that won the state amateur title last season. It was Bronco coach Eddie Erber who first mentioned the contest to Kobren.
"The trip was a lot of fun," said Kobren. "I met Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia and talked to them a little. Now I've got to get back in shape for the season."
Springbrook opens its season against Churchill on Sept. 20, a game Kobren is pointing for.
"I'm looking forward to the season," he said, shunting aside his own achievement. "The game with Churchill ought to be a good one."
And with the most skilled 16-and-under soccer player in the country on its side, Springbook could reverse last season's result.