Soccer is growing in the West Virginia Coal Fields.
The Chapmanville area already has the youth level Coal Fields Youth Soccer League.
And now there is a league for teens.
A new league is being organized and plans are to use the Logan Rec Center soccer field for games each Saturday from April to to the first week of June.
Teens from 13-18 years old in age are welcome to participate according to league organizers.
The league will be used to develop the skills for players from Logan and surrounding counties.
Some of the players will form teams from their friends at their respective schools, as Lincoln and Scott high schools have done. Other players are just learning the game or getting back into the game again because of their love for it.
There will also be one game played each Saturday at the Scott High School football field pitting games against the Hacienda Mexican Restaurant team.
“I think this is a unique opportunity,” said Ryan Cowen, a Scott High School student. “We play all these teams in the fall and it will do nothing but make our skills and gamesmanship better for our conference. It’s also a great way to meet and play with or compete against our rivals in a friendly, fun manner.”
Cowen was captain of Scott’s soccer team and was a nominee for West Virginia Player of the Year this season.
Boys and girls are welcome to play in the league, which is encouraging the play of mixed gender squads.
“It is great for us at Lincoln County,” said Mark Neace, the captain of the Lincoln County High School soccer team. “Greg Dillon coached me in the spring of last year and after the season we stayed in contact and brainstormed of ways to make soccer better for teens in the area. This is what we came up with. I’m excited for it and hope other teens are going to get on board.”
Neace said he hopes Logan County high school teams will be able to get their start in prep soccer soon.
“If the logan and Chapmanville teens play us and the other teens who have a few years of high school soccer under our belts, maybe we can help them with some of the growing pains we felt starting out,” he said. “It’s no fun getting beat 7-0, 12-0 and 20-0. Everyone seems like a deer in the headlights at first, then it gets better little by little. But people quit because they are frustrated and not prepared. We hope to help with that.”
Tanner Dillon, a Chapmanville Regional High School football standout, said he enjoys playing the world’s game.
“I’ve played spring soccer since I have been 3-years-old,” Dillon said. “I did it at first because dad wanted me to experience fun activities and develop my social skills.”
Many areas across Appalachia have been slow to embrace soccer.
With already dwindling enrollment in certain areas some people have discouraged bringing in soccer because it could potentially take away some players from the team. Soccer is also played in the fall in West Virginia.
There is also the problems of limited facilities.
In many cases, a soccer team would have to share the football field with the area high school, middle school and midget league football teams.
Overuse has turned many grass football fields into mud by the end of the fall season.
Mingo Central and Scott high schools have solved that problem as both schools have Field Turf, allowing the Miners and Skyhawks to have soccer teams and play unlimited games on the artificial surface.
“My first love is football,” Dillon said. “I play for CRHS and love Coach (George) Barker and Coach Larry Dingess. I have no intention of switching to soccer. But spring soccer makes me a better football player. My footwork is better and certainly my cardio is off the hook. I’ve got to be able to run, sprint, back peddle and fall down and jump back up for about five miles each game. I like to be up front as a striker. Everyone likes to score and I can do that yet I enjoy the passing and assist strategy and I think I can play goalie with anyone in the state. The goalie is the most physical player. You must have great hands, multidirectional movements and quick reflexes and not be afraid of something coming at your head at about 80 miles per hour.
“This will benefit the teens who play for schools, yet it will also give opportunity for a lot of kids who don’t play for the schools or teens whose schools don’t have soccer yet to try it out.”
Added Greg Dillon, a league organizer, “Make friends, get off the couch, have fun and run and exercise with your peers. That is what it’s all about. I am looking forward to having a fun time — especially with the Hacienda restaurant crew. These guys are some of the best soccer players not only in West Virginia but the country. Soccer is worldwide and is the only sport they know. I saw three of the local high school teams play them last year and the other team rarely made it past midfield and the Hacienda crew had usually only seven to nine players against 11. If you want to get better, you play better competition. We hope to do that with smiles this year.”
Signups for the league are March 1 and March 8 at the Chief Logan Rec Center at 2 p.m. each day.
The cost is $35 for each player.
For more information call Greg Dillon at 304-601-4178304-601-4178.