Volume 17 • Issue 10 / July 30 - August 05, 2004

Youth


Downtown Soccer League rosters fill up quickly

By Erica Stein

The Downtown Soccer League has so many interested players that this year its rolls are full more than a month before the season starts.

The league’s president, Don Schuck, says that while in the past the league has usually been able to accommodate those who sign up past the June 30 deadline, this year that won’t be the case; there are already more than 50 people on the waiting list.

In the 12 years since the Downtown Soccer League was founded, its membership has grown from 30 to more than 700 and age limits have increased from 13 to 17. The league season runs 10 weeks, from September through November. The recreational league, which plays on weekends at the Battery Park City fields and at Pier 40, is open to children 6-17 who live Downtown, although Shuck said that students who attend a Downtown high school can request a variance and join the league.

Since Schuck first became involved with the team nine years ago, he has seen a demographic shift in the players. “I became president in 2001,” he said. “Around the same time, a bunch of 14-year-old boys who had just aged out of the program decided they really wanted to keep playing. So we added one older boys team. Then we added a girls’ team – there were 26 girls on that older team and this year we’ll have two teams. The oldest kids play their matches on the Hudson pier. We just can’t seem to shake our older kids.”

He also said that the league has grown consistently since its founding: “We’ve always been growing. We were kind of upended by 9/11, but I’d say we’ve been consistently at 600-plus players for the past few years. But recently we’ve been edging up. This year we’ll have four more teams than last year, when we had 56.”

Each player’s family pays an $80 registration fee, but any request for a scholarship is automatically granted. Schuck said that the league has been a registered non-profit since its beginning, so it’s common for parents to make a donation above the registration fee or to volunteer during special occasions such as trophy day or picture day.

“We have about 50 coaches. I’d say maybe 95 percent are parents who do a wonderful job,” Schuck said. “But we’ve also got some great college players and retired semi-pros. Actually, one of the coaches just found us. He’s a great guy; he coaches the oldest boys. I think that’s part of why so many stay, the coaching.”

Schuck said the league also has at least as many sponsors as it does teams, and some teams “are lucky enough to have two.” “Most of our sponsors are local businesses, especially restaurants. Socrates Coffee Shop is always one of the first to register. We have a lot of people who do it every year.”

While the league is financially secure, the space it uses is limited. “The fields in Battery Park City are just a finite space. I really don’t want to have a cap in the future because every kid should have the chance to play, but it’s possible we might have to. Or it might be that you have to live here to be a member.”

Marcella Silverman, whose two sons both play in the league, said that it’s expanding in other ways as well. “My younger son, who’s 10, and some of the kids on his team decided they wanted to play together during the winter. So they got one of the coaches and about 15 kids and they played on Chelsea Piers this winter. Then in the spring they played on Saturdays in Lion’s Playground in Chinatown.”

Silverman said that both her children have had good experiences with the league. “My older son, Ben, he grew up in it. He played since he was six. He’s 15 now, and because of this rec league he was one of only three freshman on the varsity soccer team at his high school. There really aren’t that many organized activities for kids down here, so this league has been great.”

Wayne Turett, who has coached in the league for five years, agreed. “I was first drawn to coaching to get involved in helping the kids … I have been coaching pretty much the same kids all these years, the nicest part is knowing the kids, their parents and creating a team of us all.”


Erica@DowntownExpress.com



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