Spring fever is here, and nowhere is it more evident than on the Blair County soccer fields as youth spring travel play gets under way.
Interest in play this year is at an all-time high. The Altoona Soccer Club, playing under the PA West Soccer Association, has 14 travel teams registered for spring play, the highest number since the formation of the club with more than 200 players registered in boys and girls divisions ranging from U-10s to U-19s in age.
With this boom in active players and coaches, Paul Halford, director of coaching for the PA West Soccer Association, is coming to the area to work with the coaches in providing technical and tactical skills and drills for coaches in a three-day seminar beginning Saturday. Halford holds a National A license and has played and coached on an international level for a number of years.
The Hollidaysburg Soccer Association has 10 teams registered for the spring travel season in divisions 3, 4 and 5. There is a growing interest from younger teams in the Spring Cove area who have registered to play under the Hollidaysburg club.
The Hollidaysburg Soccer Association has encountered some setbacks in that most all home games are played at the Hoss's fields, which tend to experience extensive flooding. Hollidaysburg president PJ Kelly reported that drainage and flooding have been ongoing problems. The club has a plan to redo the parking lots and add drainage. This work may cost upwards of $30,000 to fix, and the club will be forced to do a great deal of fundraising and look for community donations to help fix the problem.
The Altoona Youth Soccer Organization reports spring play at the Valley View fields is set to kick off on Saturday, April 14 for most teams. Faber Moyer of AYSO also announced a new ad campaign for its youth soccer featuring U.S. men's and women's stars Landon Donovan and Shannon Boxx called, "Great Soccer Starts Here." More information can be obtained on its website at www.altoonaayso.org.
n On to the scholastic soccer scene, several area schools will be undergoing coaching changes at the high school level. The Spring Cove School District is in the process of trying to organize a high school soccer program for both boys and girls, according to school athletic director Chuck Gojmerac. In order to begin organization of the program and get coaches in place, the school board must approve the program.
The Huntingdon, Penn Cambria and Tussey Mountain school districts will also be opening up slots for their high school girls programs for the 2012 season.
n As all soccer enthusiasts await the 2012 Summer Olympics and the American women's attempt to defend their Olympic gold, some interesting side notes have surfaced regarding America's most well-known national team star, Hope Solo.
Solo, who has had an incredible career, even at her young age, breaks the perception that many hold of soccer starts at her level of play; that is that they are born with a silver spoon and have been wealthy and pampered to reach that level of play. Solo not only has endured shoulder injuries, which should have ended her career, but her father left the family at a very early age, living for many years in a tent. Despite these setbacks, Solo set an example for all youth players and continues to pursue her dream until she has reached the point where she is now considered the premier goalie in international play.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column appears monthly in the Mirror.