I have been a “soccer mom” for going on eight years now. My son started playing soccer at age 4, back when the BCYS (Blount County Youth Soccer) was in its infancy. My daughter is now in her fourth year. Hats off to Kevin and Leslie Marazzi, Jason and Sarah Thomas, the other board members, and the many volunteer coaches, and parents who have spent countless hours organizing and promoting BCYS. What an amazing job!
We live in Royal and I drive my children to and from practice, many times four nights in a week. Not unusual. Sometimes the games are on Saturdays; that often means my husband and I split up, one going one way with one child, one going with the other. Again, not unusual. Many of us do this every fall. It is wonderful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The benefits my children have received as soccer team members throughout the years are too numerous to mention.
So, the other night at practice, someone says,“Finally. Oneonta is getting a girls softball field. They have already begun construction.” I agreed with those around who said yes, that was a wonderful thing. I was feeling good about the girls teams getting well deserved recognition and their own field.
Then, at four o’clock this morning, I woke up with the thought buzzing in my head, “Yes, that is wonderful, but what about soccer? When will we get a soccer field? What would it take to get a few soccer fields?” Many of the last eight or nine years the number of children playing soccer was over 300. Three hundred! We have that many children playing soccer every single year, and not one little-bitty soccer field anywhere?
Oneonta has a very impressive ballpark – but it is a baseball park. Our 4-, 5-, and 6-yearolds practice and play games in the grass outfields of the t-ball and little league diamonds. The older teams play on the high school baseball outfields. We also share the fields with youth football, and, this year, fall baseball. Our soccer fields are not easily identifiable, making it hard for competing teams to locate which field they are to play on. When we host a tournament (a great money-maker for the city, one would think), all I can say is – yikes! Kevin and the rest do a great job with what we have here. Sometimes the concession stand is open; most times it is not.
I seem to remember the people of Oneonta coming together to build a football stadium pressbox. People rallied around and donated their time and their resources to do something that benefits the entire community and instills a sense of pride. Many of us don’t live in Oneonta, but I would be willing to bet that all of us working together could accomplish the same thing, only soccer-oriented.
Does the city of Oneonta own land that would work as a soccer complex? What about Blount County? It would not need to be next to the school … take Arab, for example: They have an absolutely magnificent soccer complex with six or seven fields, a track, a concession stand, and ample parking on the south end of town. How did they do it? How long did it take?
Who locally should take the initiative and start this process? What is the magic number of children needed each year to warrant a field or two? It is my understanding that the park and rec soccer league has more participants than football, baseball, or basketball.
What can we do? Well, for one thing – whether you are a soccer parent or not – attend an Oneonta City Council meeting. Voice your concern, make it known that soccer is here to stay, and we should get with the program. Our children and grandchildren need this.
What will it take to get the ball rolling in Oneonta? Not, who will pick up the ball and run with it, but who will kick the first goal – after all, it is soccer, and you don’t touch the ball with your hands.