Small field, tiny boots – youth soccer returns

Maggie Sue Neidzwick
Team Beach Bums' Maggie Sue Niedzwick leads the girls at the soccer clinic. - Monica Simpson | Sun

Saturday marked the second day of fall 2017 with beautiful warm weather on Anna Maria Island. The fall season launched the start of youth soccer at the Island’s community center with more than 30 little players between the age of 3 and 7 years old taking to the small fields.

As the tiny, cleat-wearing players started gathering on the fields, the sea of pink socks, shin guards, shorts and hair ties easily showed how the sport is evenly loved by boys and girls alike.

For five weeks, the youngest players will complete eight fun-filled training sessions with volunteer coaches, learning basic skills with friends. Coaches Sean Flynn and Danny Anderson, who both play adult co-ed soccer on the Island, included singing the ABCs during their clinic session with the 12 preschoolers and kindergartners Saturday morning as they motivated even the shyest little players to move their boots.

Stryder Pettit, Dylan Sato
In the scoring drill Dylan Sato strikes against Stryder Pettit in goal for Team Beach Bums. – Monica Simpson | Sun

The challenge for the coaches of the wee ones is to keep them focused and engaged.  At this age, picking daisies is their strong suit. Flynn and Anderson put smiles and looks of determination on the cute faces of the players wearing Team Beach Bums jerseys, including daughter Maggie Flynn and son Nolen Anderson.

Working with the older instructional league soccer players, coach Patty McBean, mother of player Duncan Cloutier, and coach Nathan Kragt, father of Brooke and Ella Grace Kragt, conditioned their players with a short run around the field and soccer drills before putting pennies over their Team Planet Stone jerseys for a few scrimmage games.

Part of the goal of the six-to seven-year old age group is to ensure the older players are ready to move up to the competitive recreational leagues, where certified referees are used and the score is kept. These young elementary school aged players range in skill from the first time player to those who have played for a number of years.

The challenge for the coaches is keeping the skills clinics is working with different skill levels while keeping everyone engaged and teaching new skills along the way. These coaches bring a special dynamic, as a mom with McBean and an experienced adult co-ed league player with Kragt. Together, more than 20 players spent the first 60 minutes of the youth soccer season having a blast and learning.

Fall soccer starts for the six competitive recreational teams on Tuesday, Sept. 26. The eight-to 10-year old league has nearly 40 players making up the four teams: Team Wash Family Construction coached by Darrin Wash, Team Blue Lagoon coached by Sean McCarthy, Team Progressive Cabinetry coached by Rick Cloutier, and Team Bins Be Clean coached by Rick Hurst.

With games on Tuesday and Saturday during the regular season, the older elementary school players will see their season end on Saturday, Oct. 21, with the much-anticipated championship game.

A champion will be named for the 11-to 14-year old league just before their younger counterparts on Oct. 21. With only two teams in the league, Darrin Wash and Kris Yavalar, coaching Team Slim’s Place, and Nate Talucci and Jesse Brisson, coaching Team Truly Nolen, will each work with a six players team during the eight game season.

Regardless of the age group, by mid-season, each group of kids will start coming together as a team. Coaches, family, friends and spectators will begin to see team unity and player trust develop. The players will realize by the end of the season their hard work has developed their game for future seasons and future play on and off the Island.

Most importantly, the coaches and players on the Island, as well as the fans, will develop a love of the game of soccer that can continue for years to come as has been done for years and generations in the past.