Started back in 2009, the City of Winter Garden Recreation Department’s Youth Soccer League is celebrating five years of providing an option for local kids to stay fit and have fun.
The league, which welcomes children from ages 4 through 14, has seen its participation surge to roughly 550 kids during its recently concluded season and is even considering adding an older age group for the fall season.
“We are extremely happy that the league has grown like it has,” Jay Conn, Winter Garden’s Recreation Director, said in a statement. “If ever there was a ‘good’ problem, we have one....parking! We’ve grown so much that we’ve run out of adequate parking space near the soccer fields and have people park in nearby retention areas.”
Games take place at Braddock Park and are generally held on Saturday mornings. Adult coaches are all volunteers and the league has a few coaches who have been around since the beginning, including Mike and Lora Syljebeck.
Both Syljebeck’s have coached various age divisions over the past five years and Mike says his favorite moment as a coach is “seeing a kid make a great play for the first time”while Lora says she enjoys “watching the change and growth of the kids.”
Conn says the league has placed a focus on keeping a “recreational” feel, with an emphasis on appealing to a broad range of abilities and skill levels. He and his staff are optimistic that the growth of the league will continue, as will the benefits it provides to local kids.
“Soccer’s popularity is very simple,” Conn said. “It is easy to understand, it is great exercise, and everyone is directly involved because of the fast action of the game.
“The kids love being part of a team and it is terrific to see the smiles on the faces of so many kids at games each Saturday morning.”
Registration for the fall season, which begins playing games on Sept. 13, ends Aug. 8.