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CLRA faces soccer coach shortage


Columbus United payers Tyson Brown, back, and Kale Ensser compete in a match against Oxford at the Presidents Cup in Columbus in May.

Columbus United payers Tyson Brown, back, and Kale Ensser compete in a match against Oxford at the Presidents Cup in Columbus in May.
Photo by: Dispatch file photo



Sarah Fowler



The Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority is looking for soccer coaches for the upcoming season. 


Greg Lewis, CLRA Programs Director, said coaching youth sports is a win-win situation. The children learn valuable life lessons and the adults are rewarded emotionally, he said. 


"Children are always looking for positive role models to look up to," Lewis said. "I think a lot of times people don't realize the importance of coaching. They think you're just out there, but it's so important to a child and his memory. Coaching, when you're playing a team sport, it has a lot of life skills and that coach plays a role in making that child the type of person he's going to be." 


With 56 teams for the upcoming soccer season, Lewis said the CLRA always needs more coaches. 


Due to the shortage, many first-time coaches are parents of soccer players. Prior coaching experience isn't necessary, Lewis said, noting that the CLRA offers free coaching clinics to help new coaches earn certification. He added that the most important thing for the younger players is that they have fun playing a new sport. 


"Every year we suffer from a shortage of coaches," Lewis said. "The main reason for that is a lot of parents think that they can't do it. But at those very early stages, it's about fun. It's not about winning. It's about making sure that the child has a good experience on the field. Recreation sports are not always about winning: It's about giving that child the opportunity to participate and play." 


Long-time coach Tom Velek first began coaching his son's team in 2007. He has coached every year since and is currently the director and a coach of the Columbus United Soccer Club. In 2012, Velek won the national US Youth Soccer Recreation Coach of the Year Award for Boys. 


"I started the way many parents do. My son's team did not have a coach and I ended up volunteering," Velek said. "I never thought that decision would result in such a rewarding and long-term involvement in athletics. You just never know where the decisions you make will take you in life." 


Velek said he was initially apprehensive, but said being a coach and working with the players brings him joy. 


"Some of my fondest memories of the last decade have come from my involvement in soccer," he said. "Many parents shy away from coaching soccer because it may be a sport they are not familiar with. Maybe they did not play it as a kid and the only time they have seen it played is during the World Cup.  


"Particularly at the younger age groups what is needed is patience and a willingness to create a fun athletic experience. Winning and losing truly does not matter. Really, what difference does it make if a bunch of 4- or 5-year-olds win a soccer match? The goal is be sure the kids enjoy sports and being active." 


Lewis said that while some parents or volunteers may shy away from coaching because of the responsibility, having an assistant coach can lighten the load. 


"A lot of times, one single person, they feel it's just too much of a responsibility but it's important for people to know that everything doesn't fall on one person's shoulders. You can team up and coach together." 


Lewis encouraged parents, grandparents and other community members to volunteer. 


"It will be rewarding at the end of the day, You are able to interact with not just your child but other children and make a difference in their life and give them a learning experience," he said. 


To volunteer, contact the CLRA at 662-327-4935.


Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.



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