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Williamsport girls help kids get their kicks out of soccer

June 03, 2013|By BRETT NIEVES | brett.nieves@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT — Each Sunday since mid-April a league of 36 peppy 4- and 5-year-olds have gathered at Springfield Middle School to participate in the Williamsport Youth Soccer program’s U-6 clinic headed by North Hagerstown High School girls soccer coach Rick Aleshire.

Aleshire receives help each week from the program’s vice president, Rodney Reed, and he also relies heavily on a quartet of volunteers from Williamsport High School’s girls soccer team who selflessly donate their time to teach the game they share a passion for.

“I love sharing my love for the sport and showing kids how much fun it is,” junior Erin Palmer said. “I just hope they all stay with it because it’s a fun sport to play.”

Palmer, sophomore Madison Knode, junior Regan Stout and graduating senior Victoria Key took it upon themselves to assist with the clinic.

It was Aleshire who proposed the idea to bring the girls on board to help with the clinic, and it could not have materialized any better.

“I think this year especially, with the girls that have come out, it’s four tremendously well-coached girls from Williamsport,” said Aleshire. “They’re out here supporting and giving back to their community, and I think it’s fantastic.”

It did not take much convincing on Aleshire’s part to reel in any of the volunteers, as they seemed quite eager to get out on the field and start guiding the boys and girls participating in the clinic.

“Coach Rick is our club coach and he saw the opportunity to hook me, Erin, Victoria and Regan up with this,” Knode, 15, said. “We were all totally game to get to do the great job in the community of coming out here and helping out with the kids.”

Not only does this clinic teach the children about the basics of soccer, it also gives them a chance to interact with each other and develop friendships with the way Aleshire structures the practices weekly.

Two fields — both about 15 yards in length and width — neighbor each other, which allows for quick transitions between each drill in which the kids partake. Aleshire said he likes to mix up the groups every week so the youths can mesh with their peers.

A different volunteer is at each of the stations, so the kids are able to learn varying aspects of soccer from the high school girls Aleshire says the children look up to.

“The thing I like about it is the kids relate to the girls already playing soccer,” Aleshire said. “They look to them as their heroes.”

And while the four volunteers have made an impression on the boys and girls involved in the program, the children have influenced the varsity soccer players themselves.

“It’s something I would recommend for any high school player because it’s a fun time,” Palmer said. “We get to connect with the kids in a way some people don’t get to, and I’d say it’s a life-changing experience.”

The spring session wraps up this Sunday, but there are plans to have a fall clinic beginning shortly after Labor Day. The addition of the high school girls surely has helped bring more kids into the U-6 program, and Aleshire and Reed are hoping for a larger turnout come September.

“The U-6 program was struggling a little bit and we only had 17 kids show up for our last session,” Reed said. “When Rick got these girls to come and help, the number grew to 36 this year and we’re hoping once word gets out, we’ll have even more. The goal for the fall is 50 kids.”

Key and Stout weren’t available for comment on the story due to a conflicting soccer game during the time of the interview.

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