January 12, 2019 11:32:32 PM
Soccer continues to experience a rebirth in the city of Columbus.
Tom Velek hopes 2019 brings a renewed commitment and energy to continue to help grow the sport in Columbus. To that end, Velek, the director of the Columbus Soccer Organization (CSO), and the CSO are partnering with the city of Columbus and working with Lowndes County to bring back an adult soccer league.
Velek said the city of Columbus had an adult soccer league several years ago that played at the Downtown Columbus Soccer Complex. He hopes the new version of the league will be able to learn the lessons of how the other league was run and to have a plan to build interest.
"I wanted to bring back adult soccer because I think it is important for a program to offer stuff not just to kids but to adults," Velek said.
Registration is open and runs through Jan. 25. The league is open to men and women ages 19 and older. Most of the games will be in February and in March. Velek said the teams will play at least one weeknight and on Sunday afternoons.
The fee is $55, which includes referee fees and free entry to the Friendly City Shootout Tournament on March 23-24 at the Downtown Columbus Soccer Complex. The fee also includes field set-up and facility use fee paid to Columbus Parks & Recreation.
Those interested in playing can register online at the Columbus United webpage (https://columbusunitedsoccer.com).The games will be played on the Weyerhaeuser Field, an Under-12 field, at the Downtown Columbus Soccer Complex. The goals will be U-12 goals.
Teams will be co-ed. Velek said there are no minimums or maximums for the number of men or women on each team.
Velek said he did a lot of research on other adult leagues in the state of Mississippi. He said the new league will feature teams of seven-vs.-seven instead of the traditional 11-vs.-11 to make it easier for teams to join the league and to reduce the physical demands of playing on a larger field.
"We're looking forward to it. We hope to have four to five teams and have everybody play everybody and to end with a tournament," Velek said.
Velek said individuals and teams can register. He said that allows for churches or businesses or other organizations to sign up and get involved. He said groups need to indicate when they register that they would like to play together.
"League rankings will be kept, but the focus is on fun," Velek said.
Velek said the league will use a single center referee. With one referee, there won't be any offsides.
"It means everyone will have a high forward and a sweeper, but it allows us to keep the per-player fees low," Velek said.
Zachary's Restaurant in Columbus will partner with and be a sponsor of the adult soccer league. It will provide a 15-percent discount on food for all registered players. After their matches, players should wear their jersey to the restaurant to get the discount.
In July, Velek, Randy Francisco, Armando Leyva, Danielle Linton, and Lee Milam took the initial steps to help grow soccer in Columbus by re-forming the CSO. The goal was to develop a plan and to formulate ideas to get more players and people involved in soccer in the area. The group works closely with Columbus United, the competitive arm of CSO and the city of Columbus, the city, and the county. This is the first time in the city a director and a board of directors will run soccer.
In the fall, nearly 700 players were involved in the city's recreational soccer league. Velek hopes to build on that momentum by bringing back the adult soccer league and to bring back TOPSoccer, a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by youth soccer association volunteers.
CSO was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2008. Velek, who has served in a variety of capacities with Columbus United and Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority, which is now Columbus Recreation Authority. He said in July he always believed CSO had the potential to have a board to help it move soccer forward on multiple fronts. He said a new year brings new energy and a renewed push to provide opportunities for everyone in Columbus who wants to play or to be involved with soccer.
For more information, including rules, go to https://columbusunitedsoccer.com, or contact Velek at [email protected]
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.