Parochial approach not helping our young players

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By The Staff

Wanting to maintain a strong local identity in our kids’ soccer programs is admirable but quaint and unrealistic. The Stingers does a fine job of coaching and training up until the age of 12, but it desperately needs to merge with a bigger club with greater resources to produce more of the potentially outstanding players who will move on to Evergreen High, Mullen, Colorado Academy or Conifer varsity teams. Sooner rather than later, the Evergreen soccer community needs to face the fact that it does not have the numbers of players nor the coaching and financial resources to compete with the “big-box” soccer clubs like Rush, Real, Arsenal, Storm, Edge, etc., once promising players reach teen years.

Those are make-or-break years in which kids either learn the requisite individual foot skills and tactics — e.g., Coerver training — or they fall behind permanently. Even when they have good Stingers coaches, the talented players up here often fail to reach the level of competition they could if they went down the hill because they are necessarily thrown in with less-talented players.

Believing otherwise is akin to thinking that the local hardware store can compete with Home Depot, or that a “general store” can compete with Walmart. Fifteen years ago, Stingers was able to so, but those days are gone whether we like it or not. That is the main reason why, increasingly, the Stingers Club is in the news not because of tangible soccer achievements but because of disputes over mission, finances, political intrigue, etc.

The latest brouhaha is over longtime general manager Ivan Jackson. I suppose the fact that Jackson sent at least one of his own very gifted children down the hill at an early age to play soccer should tell us something.

My own experience with Stingers was that once my daughter reached the age of 13, the club had nothing more to offer. In her last year here, she had a “coach” who was little more than an athletic babysitter or proctor. A number of Anya’s more talented Stingers mates left that year, but Anya gave it one more shot.

It was a year in which she unfortunately learned nothing about soccer. When she decided to leave and join Table Mountain, now Colorado Ice, she was publicly attacked within our team structure for having a “star” complex, and for not being sufficiently community minded. It was even suggested that she should not be “welcomed back” to Evergreen High if she decided to return.

The truth was Anya just wanted to reach her potential … to become as good a player as she could, and she couldn’t do it up here. She had no fear of competing with larger numbers down the hill, and so she left. When she came back to Evergreen High, she was able to contribute as a freshman. She was an all-Jeffco player her first year and has been a co-captain since her sophomore year.

I believe more and more talented players will head down the hill until the Stingers drops its parochial, head-in-the-sand approach to soccer and merges with a larger club so that every Evergreen player can reach his or her own level of play without guilt or recrimination. Let’s see if we can find a way to keep the “small-town” experience so many of us find rewarding, without the small-mindedness that sometimes comes with it.

Rod Kaufmann of Evergreen is a Stingers parent.