County kids get their kicks
In Rutherford County the high school soccer programs get their fair share of attention and glory. But those players didn't spawn once they entered the high school hallways, they started when their jerseys fell to their knees and shin guards weren't much bigger than a business card.
Friday night at the Rutherford County Soccer Association fields behind Isothermal, the little ones were out in full force. They may not have been the most skilled, but it's just the beginning for these young soccer players.
Nearby, RCSA board member Bernardo Martinez was camped under a blue tent helping parents sign up their children for the upcoming fall season,
"This program is about fun. There's competition but it's more recreation," Martinez said. "Our goal is to get the word out to parents to have their kids come play soccer. Once they try it, 99 percent of kids like it and want to come back. That's what we want."
Martinez's sons, one 7 and the other 14, both play soccer through RCSA. Martinez himself found his way onto the board three years ago after helping the association set up goals for nightly games. Now he prides himself along with the rest of the board in creating top-notch soccer players in Rutherford County.
"The main thing is to recruit as many kids as we can and encourage them to play soccer," Martinez said. "The goal for myself and the association is to create professional players. Everything starts here. And so as the kids like it we move them up step-by-step. At that point we can supply the high schools with players."
Martinez mentioned the lack of high-quality players that are used to fill rosters at area high schools.
"The schools lack top-quality players. Either they haven't played before or they have very little experience," Martinez said.
With that in mind, RSCA is encouraging parents to bring their kids to the fields, sign them up and let them try the game for themselves. They're confident the kids will continue to come back for more and become a player that can represent their school and county well.
If a player feels they are ready for a challenge that the recreational leagues can't provide, they have the option of playing on the county travel team, the Rutherford Rumble. The Rumble teams range from under-10 to under-18.
"If a kid starts to grow bored and it's too easy for them we encourage them to play on the travel teams," Martinez said. "For being a small town we're doing we are doing well."
"Once we get the word out and get the kids playing at a high level we can travel out of town and represent the county," Martinez added. "When we go to Charlotte we want to be noticed."
However, in order to maintain the programs, parents are needed to sign up their kids and provide the children to coach.
"Last fall we we're very concerned because we got less than 200 players, which was a big drop," Martinez said. "When we have the kids we can start involving the parents with volunteering and helping the association. It only grows from there."
Friday was the final night for fall registration but parents can visit the RCSA website through www.leaguelineup.com for an online form or visit the association's Rutherford County Soccer Association Facebook page for details about upcoming events.
"I would thank them for allowing their kid to play and encourage them to keep signing them up," Martinez said when asked what he would tell parents that sign up their children."
But like every sport, it may not be right for everyone. However, it's worth a shot.
"I'll tell [parents] to let the child decide," Martinez said. "If they like it, it's worth it. If they don't like then there's nothing we can do about it."
Among the soccer education the association values, safety is a top priority as all coaches and volunteers are subject to a background check before coming on board.
"We always make sure we have the right people out here to make sure it's safe," Martinez said. "If they don't qualify than we don't use them."
Fall registration is ongoing.