August 26, 2009 9:32:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Registration for the Starkville Soccer Association season has just concluded and president Richard Stubbs said participants and sponsorships are down this year.
Stubbs believes parents are feeling the pain of a struggling economy despite possible signs of improvement.
He said cutting back on physical fitness, especially with children, is the wrong thing to do.
"These kids will miss the opportunity to run around on a field playing a game that they love, but I understand there are hard decisions being made," Stubbs said. "There is no pinpoint area where we can see the registrations falling down. It''s across the board from (under) 6 to (under) 16."
Last year''s registration numbers were more than 500, but have fallen off to more than 400 this year.
Even with the lower than usual count, Stubbs anticipates having 40 teams at the Starkville Sportsplex soccer fields Sept. 1 when the season opens.
After experiencing a scare at the end of the first registration period, Stubbs said the association worked hard to increase support.
"Our board and friends to the board are out there recruiting hard to get the numbers back up where they should be," Stubbs said. "We''ve had to work a little harder this year, and that could be a good thing for the future of the association."
The highest registration the Starkville Soccer Association has experienced was more than 600 in 2005-06, when it fielded boys and girls Under-16 and U-19 recreational teams and had an adult league.
Stubbs, who expects registration to eclipse 450 in the spring, said the association also has to compete with other sports.
"Other sports are getting more aggressive and competitive just as soccer is," Stubbs said. "Programs are making kids commit to one sport way too early. It used to be where kids would move from one sport to the next as the seasons changed, now kids are being made to commit to gymnastics or travel baseball as early as 8 years old."
Stubbs has received support from the Starkville Recreation Department and both share the desire of having healthy and fit children who are playing as many sports and doing as many activities as the families can handle.
With an uncertain economy, Stubbs believes soccer in Starkville will rebound.
"This sport is too easy to love and too much fun to play," Stubbs said. "As the economy returns to normal (hopefully one day), the players will come back to us."
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