The Charlestown Youth Soccer fall season kicked off last weekend, and the now-strong youth sports organization took time to remember how far it has come in just 10 years of existence – now boasting more than 400 players and 16 travel teams and several in-house teams.
Founders Gerard Kennedy and Lindy Williamson looked back on their formation in March 2007 and noted want an incredible journey the organization has made.
Williamson said the program formed when parents began to tire of paying high prices and driving so their kids could play on the Esplanade league (Hill House), and they were also tired of losing families to places like Winchester that had youth sports.
“A lot of families would enroll their kids in youth soccer out in Winchester or places like that and drive there every weekend,” she said. “After taking enough drives up there, they would begin to like it and then they would leave Charlestown. Losing friends and neighbors and family members to other communities because of things like that can really altar your relationships. So, we decided to try it here. We didn’t know anything about soccer. I didn’t even know the rules. I’m a baseball person, but we decided to muddle our way through it.”
A key thing that transpired was getting help from the former Brazilian Church on Sullivan Square, which somehow organized a four-day clinic at Bunker Hill Community College with the famed Celtic pro soccer team. The team was in Boston to play the Portuguese Sporting team at Fenway Park. In their off time, they were in Charlestown, and they ignited a spark in the youth to get involved in soccer.
A second major starting-point was the unveiling of the new turf field at the high school on the weekend they opened.
“Many of our families had never been to Medford Street and this was a tremendous new facility for us to share,” she said. “It opened up a lot of people to another part of the community they hadn’t been in.”
Kennedy said the growth in the program would not have been possible without the support the program has received from the community including all of our volunteers and the Neighborhood Council, Spaulding, the Charlestown Community Impact Fund and the Smart Choices Program.
“As the program continues to grow, the lack of field space for teams to practice is a challenge,” he said. “Fortunately we enjoy positive working relationships with our partner sports programs in Charlestown – Girls Softball, LAX and Youth Football- that allows us to make the best use of the limited space that we have. But with increasing development in the community, there is no new open space being created. So a goal for the program for the next few years is to seek opportunities to increase the availability of open space in the community to accommodate the tremendous demand for youth sports activities.”
And that will be importation because the organization is growing.
Allen Reitz said they now have a spring season and fall season, as well as indoor futsol in the winter. He said there were just over 100 players on two in-house teams in 2007, but by last fall there were 379 players. This fall, in the new season that just started, they have 421 players.
Kids as young as 2 can play soccer, and kids as old as 18 can play on the U18 team in the spring.
“The great thing about soccer is it can be played pretty much year-round,” he said. “I think in a lot of ways soccer is popular because it is a great, inexpensive sport. You need a ball, a field and something to shoot at. That helps out. I think the growth of soccer in youth sports has changed quite a bit. It perceived as not being as dangerous as other sports and promotes sportsmanship and teamwork. Our main goal is to make sure kids are playing. We offer a lot of scholarships to pay for the season. We don’t turn anyone away.”
Parents get in on the action this year in new Charlestown FC team
While parents have watched their kids play youth soccer in Charlestown for over 10 years now, this year for the first time the parents decided to get in on the action – forming an over 40 Charlestown FC team.
Allen Reitz said many of the parents had been talking about it and finally got everyone together this year to form the new team. They played their first game last weekend.
“We got a team together and started playing six on six last summer and it grew and grew into a real team,” he said. “We had our second game last Sunday. It’s an over 40 league and has a 10-game season.”
Reitz said they have about 15 players and they play every Sunday.
“I believe about 80 percent of the players are associated with Charlestown Youth Soccer as well,” he said.