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Spanish Springs Soccer Club investing in local youths
by Sami Edge - Special to the Tribune
Aug 15, 2013 | 2100 views | 5 5 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Graham Thomas (left) and Jordan Melendrez are members of the Spanish Springs Soccer Club’s U10 team that was practicing Tuesday evening at Lazy 5 Park. The local club offers 17 different club teams for boys and girls in various age groups.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Graham Thomas (left) and Jordan Melendrez are members of the Spanish Springs Soccer Club’s U10 team that was practicing Tuesday evening at Lazy 5 Park. The local club offers 17 different club teams for boys and girls in various age groups.
As the autumn sun descends over the Spanish Springs hills on weeknight evenings, it illuminates a Lazy 5 Regional Park that is bristling with life. In the last rays of evening light, the soccer fields that house the Spanish Springs Soccer Club team with purple-and-black-clad athletes racing to and fro over the grass, coaches shouting instructions and encouragement, and parents, lounging by the sidelines, monitoring their respective MVP’s.

On Tuesday and Thursday evenings from August to October, another crowd joins the mix: the 84 participants of this season’s SSSC Advantage Program, representing the youngest players the region has to offer, there to learn basic soccer skills, get their first taste of competition, and join the communal atmosphere of excitement and love of the game.

Offered in two annual sessions, one in the spring and one in the fall, the SSSC Advantage Program is an eight-week training camp for youths ages 5-10, looking to jumpstart their soccer experience. Initially started in the spring of 2011 by SSSC president Ryan Long and Director of Coaching Rob Moreland, the program is intended to provide an alternative to AYSO-style soccer for area residents, providing comprehensive, beginner training under a licensed coaching staff.

“We started [the Advantage Program] to be a feeder program to help the kids and train them for higher level soccer,” Long said. “Basically, it’s really focused on skill and technique, to teach the kids and provide them an ‘advantage’ over kids who haven’t trained before.”

As the boys varsity soccer coach at Spanish Springs High School, Moreland was inspired to create the Advantage Program when he noticed the volume of youth without any real training in the fundamentals of the sport, who were trying out for his team. Noticing a lack of professional soccer training for young kids in the community, Moreland and Long decided to solve the problem.

“What we’ve been trying to do is to give the kids an edge and teach them from the ground up … My theory is that you put the greatest coaches with the youngest kids. That way you build skills from the start and you don’t have to break (previously learned) bad habits,” Moreland said. “We’ve been teaching them how to play the game and build those skills at a young age. So far they’ve been doing really well ... They’re like little sponges; they just eat it up.”

The primary advantage of the program, creators believe, is the knowledge and experience that a trained coaching staff lends to the novice players. As a pre-training program of sorts for the Spanish Springs Soccer Club, which hosts 17 club teams for players ages 10 to 18, the children in the Advantage Program have the benefit of being trained by coaches who have coached their older peers, and are trained and certified either through United States Youth Soccer or the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Coaches who participate in the SSSC, Moreland says, must dedicate time to coach the Advantage kids – in turn, the SSSC pays for their coaching education.

Patty Stoddard, is an example of a SSSC community member who brings years of experience to the group. Her 32 years of experience with soccer in the local community includes coaching soccer at regional high schools, watching her son grow from a local player to a professional indoor soccer player, playing and refereeing the game herself and acting as the NIAA Soccer Commissioner for Northern Nevada.

As the current Coordinator of the Advantage Program, one of the unique benefits that she sees in the program is the opportunity it gives young athletes to interact with a variety of trained coaches from all skill levels and older players, both in the SSSC and from the surrounding community.

“I think it’s really great that they require their coaches and encourage their kids to give back to the community … I think they really enjoy it too,” Stoddard said. “I think there’s a lot of good role modeling happening with the coaches and older kids participating.”

For Rudy Espinosa, a volunteer coaching assistant and Spanish Springs High School soccer player, giving back to the Advantage Program provides an opportunity to help foster interest and experience in the sport for players who are just starting out.

“It’s pretty fun and you get to help the little kids get better,” Espinosa said. “It’s always nice to see anyone improve in a sport, and it’s great to see how they start off and to help them keep improving.”

Three years after first implementing the program, its creators believe their endeavor has been a success. According to Long, the first teams to ascend from the Advantage Program to the U-10 division, both for boys and girls, were very successful in their first seasons, emerging victorious over teams without similar training.

In addition to boosting the performance of kids who will likely cycle into the SSSC competitive teams, Long believes the Advantage Program is beneficial in its ability to foster the Spanish Springs soccer community by reaching out to the youngest interested participants and giving them the chance to learn to love the sport, regardless of their future soccer aspirations.

“It’s special because we’re growing our community in Spanish Springs and we have the opportunity to help develop the youth,” he said. “If we can better these kids by even a little bit, then we’re really doing a lot.”

In past years, the focus of the advantage program has centered around the training and comprehensive abilities of the players in the program, with scrimmages and a few weekend games thrown in just for fun. However, in accordance with a parental desire to see their kids in action, the Advantage Program secured the privilege to enroll its teams in the Great Basin Youth Soccer League’s recreational competition lineup for the first time this spring.

Throughout the two-month season, participants are offered the opportunity to play in eight Saturday games against peers of their age level. Regardless of the new game schedule, organizers say that the main focus remains on teamwork and skill development – not on a tally of wins and losses.

“Our kids win and lose games like everybody else. It’s just not about winning for us — we’re looking to build our skills,” Moreland said. “When they get into competitive soccer, that’s when they can worry about wins and losses.”

Karina Cisneros, whose 7-year-old daughter has participated in both the spring and fall sessions, sees the Advantage Program as the ideal way to introduce her daughter to the mechanics and teamwork of the sport, without a focus on competition.

“(She’s learned) to manage the ball. She enjoys it and really wants to continue with it,” Cisneros said. “Now that they’re little I think practice and skill (is most important), but as she gets older, I’d eventually like to see her try it competitively.”

In Stoddard’s opinion, one of the things that makes the SSSC and its Advantage Program unique is the family and community dynamic that surrounds and supports the players of all age groups.

It’s a feeling that you just can’t miss, she says, on those weeknight evenings at Lazy 5.

“It’s kind of like the soccer community is raising the neighborhood kids ... It’s so family oriented. People come out (to Lazy 5), the parents sit around where the kids are playing ... It’s just a very nice atmosphere,” Stoddard said. “Soccer is just one of those games where meeting another ‘soccer person’ makes them just like family.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Former Player
August 19, 2013
These kids are aged 5-10. I'm pretty sure whatever they need to know about grades in school comes from their parents at this age and that they don't start high school for another four years. I was on the first Spanish Springs Soccer Club team and often times the people you play with on club are often times the very same teammates you will have in high school.
Unhappy Citizen
August 16, 2013
Although this program had the correct mind set to begin with, the overall consequences has created a youth group that is being taught that it is more important to play club soccer than at the high school. They consistently show more loyalty to the club program than their high school. What happened to the days where the pride in school is what mattered. Secondly this program does not put any emphasis on grades in school. Any kid truly inspiring to play at a collegiate level needs to be stressed on the importance of good grades in school. Also the importance that high school plays in their development not just as an athlete but as a person truly defines them as citizens in the community. Most high school coaches teach life lessons while on a field of play. We know that they are not paid big bucks to coach the kids in our community. The coaches at the club level always get their cut of the money made from the costs of being in the club. All I am saying is High School teaches how to play with class whether you win or lose and Club teams approach is all about winning so that they can get better recognition within the soccer league and charge higher prices due to their reputation!
Educated CItizen
August 17, 2013
It is more important to play club soccer. The high school/collegiate is an outdated format that has ruined the level of play in this country. Pride gives birth to covetousness. For example, pride is often encouraged in sports and business. That is because people tend to do better against a standard set by the competition. I often compete because I covet someone else's trophy or record or income or position. I might even

compete with myself because I covet a better time, score, record, or accomplishment. I may want to make more money this year, not because I need it but because I covet the sense of accomplishment. All this is based in pride when the standard to reach or beat is found in people (others or myself). Humility, on the other hand, pursues accomplishment which is rooted in passion for the game itself. While good grades are desired, the simple truth is good grades don't necessarily translate to a complete individual that is free thinking, and who has the ability to communicate across cultures with interactive conceptual visualization. As for your final statement, not all coaches who coach at the club level get the "big bucks". Not every club puts emphasis on winning, and those who do, do not serve the athletes interest. The do make money on reputation by earning recognition. That's not the clubs fault, that is the fault of professional sports, and uneducated parents.
Joann Phillips
August 19, 2013
Thank you, Educated Citizen, for clearing up the misconceptions in Unhappy Citizen's response to the article. For more than fifteen years, soccer coaches at the collegiate level haven't been concerned with what the player has done in high school. They, and professional coaches, have watched players at the competitive club level.

I would say that most club coaches also teach life lessons.

Sorry that your perception of club sports is so poor and that you had a bad experience. Hope you talked it over with the coaches and the directors so that they could have feedback and learn any applicable lessons.
High school coach
August 20, 2013
This article is about 5-10 year olds learning the game of soccer. How did this become a club vs high school debate?

The Advantage Program was created by a high school coach who also coaches club, both are vital in the devopment of our youth soccer players and yes good grades are important too.
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