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Clock starts on soccer season

April 13, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

Dozens of aspiring David Beckhams took to the soccer fields Saturday morning at Fairgrounds Park to kick off the spring season of the Hagerstown Area Youth Soccer League.

The fields were saturated from Friday night's heavy rains, but that didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the players or the parents, who cheered their children regardless of the game's outcome.

"It's a good program," said John Kessler, whose daughters Amy, 6, and Ashley, 9, play in the league. "It teaches the kids the fundamentals. ... And everybody gets to play."

Warren Johnson, the league's referee administrator, said the season was supposed to start last weekend, but the league had to cancel because of bad weather. Fifteen games were scheduled to be played Saturday, he said.

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Johnson said the $45 participation fee helps pay the cost of equipping each of the league's 750 or so participants, who range in age from pre-kindergartners to 18. If a family cannot afford to pay the participation fee, a scholarship program is available to help, he said.

League rules require each child to learn all of the positions to determine where the player feels most comfortable as he or she advances to a higher age division, Johnson said.

All of the adults in the league are volunteers, said Johnson's wife, Lisa. In addition, volunteers are given background checks to ensure the children will be safe.

Signs near the soccer fields warned visitors that the games were child-friendly, meaning, among other things, no alcohol or smoking would be permitted.

"We want people to come here and feel comfortable," Lisa Johnson said. "Everyone feels good when you're doing something great."

She said the league has about 34 sponsors, who adopt teams in the same manner as backers of Little League baseball. The sponsors play an integral part in helping keep participation costs at a minimum, she said.

Mathew Huffman, 13, said he likes the rule that all of the children are guaranteed to play.

"It's really nice," he said. "They cheer you on. Other leagues yell at you when you don't do something right."

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