Recreation soccer is all about fun and fresh air
The Jamestown Soccer Association's recreation program has 230 island youths passing up the Saturday morning coach potato routine in favor of some soccer knowledge.
The program has been presided over by the trio of Clayton Carlisle, Mary Waddington and Jack Christie for the past four years.
"We have found that it works better to split the duties between us rather than having one person in charge of the whole thing," Carlisle said. "We work very well together, so it has been a beneficial situation."
While Carlisle said there is no specific way they divide the duties, Waddington said they do tend to gravitate toward their strengths.
Recreation soccer differs from the spring competitive program in several ways. All rec games are played on the Lawn Avenue fields, while competitive games are split between Jamestown fields and others throughout the state.
"In rec soccer we also try to have everyone get equal playing time," Carlisle said. "We have a draft night where we try to balance the teams as equally as we can using a blind draft system. If every team is playing .500 soccer, then it is a perfect season."
Carlisle also points out that the focus is a little different between the two seasons. "The rec season focuses equally on kids having fun and learning soccer. Kids do have fun playing competitive, but they also tend to be more focused, committed and interested in the competition side of the game," he said.
No program would be complete without the help of endless numbers of volunteers and Carlisle said JSA is full of them. "We have a good amount of former high school and college players and coaches. The parent coaches look to them for assistance and they readily give it," he said.
One of those coaches, Kyle Froberg, runs the U6 age group and said that his son, Jake, has been instrumental in him being able to make the shift on Saturday mornings from being the North Kingstown High School boys' soccer coach to coaching at the youngest rec level.
"In U6 we are really focusing on skills like dribbling and ball control. We practice for 45 minutes before the game, take a 15-minute break and then have a game," he said. "We have found this is the best way to do it because the kids are retaining what they just learned in practice and using it in a game situation."
Playing in a beehive formation is one of the biggest obstacles the U6 coaches have to overcome in their players and Froberg uses an analogy to help explain it to the kids.
"I ask them what happens when you are around a real beehive," he explains, "and they will say they get stung. So then I tell them that in order to not get stung they have to get out away from the beehive, or spread out."
Kyle's older brother, Steve, sees the benefits that come from laying the groundwork in the U6 division. As a U8 coach, Steve can tell which players have played in the previous league. "In U8, the kids are a little faster and stronger. Their first year in U8 they can sometimes struggle, but if they played U6 their confidence is usually better," he said.
The main focus for the 6 and 7 year olds is developing their foot skills and passing the ball. "The first week most of them just took the ball and dribbled it all the way down the field until someone took it away. Now they will look up to see what players are around them and about half the time they will pass the ball," he said.
He also likes to stress the importance of assists to his players and has even been known to offer them incentives for willingly passing the ball instead of trying to score the goal themselves.
Parents complimented the elder Froberg on his coaching style and said that coaches like him are part of the reason for the success of the program. "He is very patient with the kids, and that makes all the difference at this age," Marah Campbell said.
Newcomer Jeff Hughes, a U10 coach who played at the high school and college levels, gives a hint as to why some of the volunteers take on their coaching roles. "We have nine people on our team, so at practice I actually get out there with them so we can play five on five. It is a lot of fun. I love it," Hughes said.
His team has been working on field positioning this season. "They are getting the concept that if one person is playing up, another should come in behind," he said.
He has been impressed with how far the players have come so quickly. "The good players have gotten even better and the less experienced players had a really great game today. They really surprised me," Hughes said.
By the time the players reach Mike Bradley in the U12 division, the focus of play has shifted from individual to team. "They should have their individual skills down by the time they reach this level," he said. "This is the first age where you really start to see team building."
Bradley also points out that U12 is typically the last division where teams are co-ed. "This is the last age where it works well. By the time they leave this division, you really start to see differences in size and strength between the boys and the girls," he said.
The biggest strength among the U12 age group, Bradley said, is their ability to understand rules, such as offsides, and to be able to play a certain position.
"I don't want to lock anyone into a certain position, but in U12 you can start to see where certain kids strengths are on the field," he said.
All of the age divisions have three more weeks to perfect their skills before the end of the season.
"We have been very pleased with what we have seen this year. We made a few minor adjustments, but not much and everyone seems to be having a great time," Carlisle said.