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Soccer fans get kick out of Family Fun Day

July 24, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Cara Burgan, left, and MacKenzie Dudley bounce soccer balls around at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park Saturday for Family Fun Day sponsored by the Williamsport Youth Soccer Association.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Every four years, the World Cup reignites the sports argument in this country.

Is soccer gaining in popularity?

If you visited Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park on Saturday, you might have thought it was the national pastime.

There was soccer talk, soccer games, soccer clinics and people who support soccer.

About 500 people were expected to attend a Family Fun Day sponsored by the Williamsport Youth Soccer Association.

The event was an opportunity to thank parents and volunteers who help make the league possible, Pat Kubala said. But as a new season approaches, it also was a way "to get kids thinking about playing soccer again."

Kubala, who volunteers as a coach, said about 17 teams and 250 youths are expected to take to the soccer field this season as part of the Williamsport Youth Soccer Association. Players range from about 6 years of age to teenagers.

"The league is very important to the area and important to feeding players to the local high schools," Kubala said. "At Williamsport High School, for instance, a very large percent of their team players are from youth soccer."

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Kubala said players come from across the Tri-State area, including West Virginia, and compete against teams from as far away as Baltimore.

"We're continually growing," he said.

Kubala said Family Fun Day has been held in the past "but it's been quite a few years. We decided it was time to revisit it."

"We wanted to try to bring the soccer community together," said Gary Robinson, president of the youth soccer association. "It's a way of saying 'thank you' to the parents who make the league possible. I might be bragging, but I think we have the greatest soccer parents around."

Kubala said the day included opportunities for players and prospective players to get out on the field for some friendly competition, as well as one-on-one clinics.

There was also a face painting table, giveaways and food. Two $500 cash prizes also were awarded.

Kubala said the day wouldn't have been possible without the support of a dozen area businesses that donated food and/or prizes.

"To say we appreciate what they've done is an understatement," he said. "They are a big part in making the event a success."

Kubala said organizers are hopeful Family Fun Day will become an annual event.

"That's my goal," he said. "Everybody appreciates all of the sacrifices made by players, parents and coaches. We have two practices a week, away games, lots of travel time and fundraisers. People juggle their schedules to make sure their children are able to play soccer. This is a way to recognize all that they do."

Kubala said teams are coed and every boy and girl who participates in the league has playing time "because it's absolutely not about winning. It's about learning and having fun."

It's also about promoting physical fitness, he said.

"Obesity among children is a serious problem and it's time for all recreational leagues to emphasize the importance of staying active your whole life," he said.

Among the players on hand Saturday was Mackenzie Dudley, 9, who is a member of the under-12 division.

Mackenzie said she's been playing soccer since she was 6 years old and has a lot of fun playing the game.

"I love most sports," she said. "I also like running."

Mackenzie said she had been looking forward to Family Fun Day and planned on having a good time despite the heat.

"We are expecting a very big crowd today," Kubala said. "But with temperatures at 102, it might keep some people away. For those who are here, I think they'll be drinking lots of water and staying in the shade."

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