The rec soccer scene is alive and well in Richmond Hill.
Volunteer soccer coordinator Stacy Bergsmith said 450 children, ages 4-17, have signed up thus far, making for a record number of kids signed up for RHRA soccer this fall in comparison with past years.
Bergsmith said she and the other volunteers had set a goal of 450 and are thrilled to have met it. This massive number of membership has made way for the formation of 54 teams.
The majority of the teams are in the younger brackets. Bergsmith said most of the younger brackets are 3v3 and 4v4 teams which allows for 6-8 players on a team. "This method allows kids to have more touches on the ball. Every kid gets involved in the game this way," she said.
Some of the older players are bracketed into Select Club teams and play GYSA-sanctioned travel ball. There is one local boys Select team – the U13 Raiders coached by Darrell Snider. The team just returned from a tournament in North Carolina where they fared well. The outing included matches against top Select teams in the nation. The team includes the five boys from Adel Mustafa’s summer Raiders 3v3 team, who made the nationals in their summer league.
There are two Richmond Hill Select Club teams – at the U15 and U19 levels. The girls teams are headed to their first major tournament this weekend in Aiken, S.C. The U15 Richmond Hill Hornets are coached by David Kaye. The U19 Richmond Hill Comets are coached by Jessica Chipple.
Kaye has been coaching the same girls for years at different age levels and the Hornets just recently advanced from a rec team to the select level. Chipple was a standout player on the AASU championship team this past year.
The Richmond Hill rec soccer scene is a proven launching pad for superior playing at RHHS and RHMS. Both schools have highly successful programs and feature former RHRA players.
Several of Kaye’s players from last year will be entering the RHHS program and several of Chipple’s players feature seasoned RHHS players.
The Comets feature present RHHS stars Jennifer Adams, Lori Barnes, Kaitlin Bergsmith, Kaitlyn Berry, Lauren Gerber, Meghan Guarino, Katherine Hudson, Kristin Oddi, Lauren Regan and Whitney Regan.
The team also features Richmond Hill newcomer Anna Bausum who just moved here from Colorado and "will be awesome on the Wildcat team where she’ll be a sophomore," said Bergsmith. Rounding out the remainder of the roster are St. Vincent’s Dominque Trappio and Effingham County’s Kaitlin Pittman and Brittany Way.
When told about the large enrollment numbers in RHRA rec soccer, RHHS Lady Wildcats head coach Steve Kollman expressed his excitement about what this means for the immediate and long-term effects on his program.
"As a member of the local soccer community, I am thrilled to hear that over 400 of our local kids are playing soccer this fall," said Kollman.
"Not only do these young people stand to benefit from fitness and team work, but keeping kids in soccer directly benefits our community as a whole when these kids stay in school and represent our community around the state of Georgia on club and high school teams.
This year, RHHS Lady Wildcat Soccer will directly benefit from our strong rec program when we gain eight players off David Kaye’s state caliber club team to work toward delivering another State Playoff Tournament appearance for the Richmond Hill community."
The Select teams started playing in July and the rec teams will be starting this coming week.
Bergsmith reports that there is limited availability for additional enrollment and those interested in joining should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also receive further information by visiting www.rhrasports.com.
Bergsmith said playing space is getting tight with the tremendous growth the program is experiencing and stands to experience in the near future. For example, she is hoping to create a local boys U19 Select Club team for next year.
RHRA soccer action currently takes place in three locations: the fields at the rec center on Harris Trail Road, behind RHES and at "the bottom" on Mimosa Street.
"All three locations will be completely full of kids," said RHRA President Sanford Carter. "Hopefully by next fall we will have the new rec fields down Hwy. 144 available to help us ease field availability. The county is telling us it should be ready and they should be just in time at the rate we’re growing."
Bergsmith said the additional fields will help but said it still will not be enough to comfortably facilitate the needs of the growing soccer programs.
Bryan County Recreation Director Pratt Lockwood said the success of the soccer program in Richmond Hill "is due to the tremendous dedications of all the volunteers who have dedicated themselves to getting it where it needs to be."
He also commented on the soccer program in North Bryan, which is getting started this year. "We are excited to introduce soccer to Hendrix Park, and we hope it will be as successful as it has become in Richmond Hill," Lockwood said.
Hendrix Park soccer will kick off on September 8 for ages 4-8, taught by at least eight pro players who will go over technique, rules and is planned to enlighten children and parents on the basics of the soccer program.