Future of Clay County soccer remains bright due to collaborative effort

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Looking back at the success of Northview’s boys and girls soccer programs, it’s been evident that the uptick in the winning percentages has risen over the last two decades.

The reason? A collaborative effort between the high school programs, the traveling club teams and the YMCA teams, which has, together, built a pipeline that not only introduces the game to youngsters in Clay County, but also keeps each player on the same page, making it an easier transition when they move from level to level throughout their playing career.

“Success has come in spurts since 1996, but the first major step has always been getting young children introduced to soccer, much like we do with other sports,” said Northview girls soccer head coach Don Bryan. “The first big step was with Deb (Plummer) Ringo. Using high school coaches and players to work with the YMCA, that led to some help with coaching for members who had grown up playing in other communities. The missing point was travel soccer. You had to leave town to find a team if you wanted to improve. When travel first started with Ron Kiernicki, Travis Jones and myself all coaching at the Y, we started travel with other clubs in the area. As the high school coach, I knew that one or two players playing travel was not going to accomplish success. But with us working together, we pulled stronger players to this challenge of travel while playing at the Y. So, you had all soccer going on out at the Northview High School soccer fields. That led directly to the success of the programs the last 10 years at the high school.”

Emma Reed, a former Northview soccer player who has been coaching at the YMCA since 2015, echoed Bryan’s sentiments, stating the biggest change that led to positive results came from the creation of the Clay Youth Soccer League.

“I'm not sure what year Clay Youth Soccer League officially started, but it bridged the gap between when kids had to leave the Y program and when they went to play for the high school,” said Reed. “I feel like during those years of not having the CYSL, we lost a lot of interest in soccer itself. Kids found other sports and hobbies and didn't come back when it was time to enter high school. If they stuck with soccer, they had no choice but to go to another county for those years. Having the travel league to bridge the gap between the YMCA league and high school has kept more kids playing in and for our community.

“We have a lot of talent here and I love to see our community represented by these kids,” Reed continued. “In my opinion, the longer kids play together and develop a bond on – and off – that field, the further they go. They become comfortable and know their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, making it second nature when they’re on the field. With everyone working together, the kids have many opportunities to increase their skill sets and better prepare them for high school, should they choose to keep playing.”

Because of the cohesiveness of each group, it’s created a bright future for soccer in Clay County, said Northview boys soccer head coach JP Arvin.

“I believe the future for soccer in Clay County is super bright,” said Arvin. “[Northview assistant coach] Kevin Strahla and I became the fourth set of boys soccer coaches in four years at Northview. Kevin and I’s primary objective was to establish continuity, which we have – two section finals in two years, which is believed to be a first – and luckily Will Rindone came aboard our first year too. Will played at Northview, has a really good insight of the game, and wants to advance soccer in Brazil as much as anyone.”

And even though the trajectory of soccer in Clay County is pointing upward, there are still things that Bryan wants to see continue to ensure that doesn’t change in the short term, and especially in the long term.

Among the most prominent? Keeping kids interested in the sport.

“We don't want to waste time attempting to reinvent the wheel every couple of years. We just have the right people with a similar vision. It takes a committed high school coach and community to pull it off,” said Bryan. “We have to come up with a way to keep children interested, challenge the stronger players to travel, continue to improve the Y players to make them stronger in soccer and get the parents involved as a coach, a certified official or educated soccer supporter. That leads to stronger high school program which can provide players chances at the next level for players.”

If they’re able to do that, it will also lead to more success at the high school level, which will also bring more positive attention to the game, said Arvin.

“The benefit of everyone being on the same page is simple, boys and girls who need/can handle a higher level of competition can play together in club (travel), while also playing against each other in rec (the YMCA). Iron sharpens iron, but coordination and familiarity wins matches,” said Arvin. “This past season, there was one day of conflict between the YMCA and CYSC schedule for the entire season, and that was only because we won enough to advance in the tournament at Ben Davis.”

To put it simply, soccer is on the rise in Clay County and it’s led to success at each level it’s currently being played. And with each level being on the same page, the future is as bright as ever.

“I am excited for the future of soccer in Clay County as it looks very bright,” said Reed. “Our numbers at the YMCA have grown substantially. I wish to see all the leagues continuing to thrive.”

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  • One of the other major changes is the YMCA using certired FIFI travel officials. It helps HS players apply the rules and teach along the way. We know have a deep pool of new to some more experienced officals , which helps the game improve. I was beyond excited when the YMCA agreed to this. When speaking to other assignors in the state it one of a few that do this. Nice feather in Clay county's hat !

    -- Posted by coachB on Tue, Jul 2, 2024, at 1:24 PM
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