North Georgia Community YMCA soccer players ranging from ages 3 to 13 will soon take the fields at Heritage High School by storm as the spring season gets under way. This is the first year Heritage has opened its fields to YMCA soccer players.
"Hopefully, more kids will be involved in YMCA soccer with the move to Heritage High and the availability of more practice and game fields," said HHS principal Ronnie Bradford.
Player signups will be held inside the school gymnasium Feb. 25 and March 3 from 10 a.m. to noon.
North Georgia YMCA Executive Director John Donahoo said the league's players will learn about ball control, dribbling, passing, shooting, how to work as a team and the rules of the game.
"We believe in having a structured family program with a good atmosphere, because that's what the Y is all about," he said. "We work to encourage sportsmanship on the field. We are excited to be here at Heritage with access to their facilities."
He said the five core values the YMCA seeks to instill are honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and faith.
"The coaches are the key to the program," said Donahoo. "We train the coaches through meetings and clinics."
One such coach is Bradford, who started coaching soccer 18 years ago at Lakeview Middle School and fell in love with the sport.
"Soccer is a great involvement sport, since every player has the opportunity to touch the ball during game play," said Bradford, adding that the Y's soccer program scores not only with players, but also with parents.
"YMCA soccer is really low-stress for kids and their parents, since having fun, good sportsmanship and enjoying the game are emphasized above winning," he said.
All three of his daughters play YMCA soccer and he has had the opportunity to coach each of them.
"It's a great sport," said Aaron Hilliard, a third-grader at Battlefield Elementary School who is starting his fourth soccer season with North Georgia Y and plays year-round with the group, taking only summers off. "You get to meet new friends. I usually play mid-field. Playing soccer has taught me sportsmanship. Win or lose, either way you should always congratulate your opponent."
Aaron said he plans to play soccer for Lakeview Middle and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School after elementary school.
Donahoo said the YMCA's soccer teams are made up of 10 players with six team members on the field at one time. Spring season games begin March 24 with a grand-opening game on the professional turf field at Finley Stadium. About 40 teams from North Georgia Community YMCA and North River YMCA combined will take to the field throughout the day.
All other practices and games for North Georgia Y teams will follow throughout the spring season on Heritage High School fields.