School's out and the kids want to play.
However, many young athletes are abandoning the traditional baseball diamond for the rectangular soccer field.
Over the past two weeks the Columbia County Patriots Select Soccer Program has been conducting tryouts at Patriots Park. Hundreds of girls and boys turned out for a spot on one of 14 teams separated by gender and age groups ranging from 8 to 19 years old. Only around 200 kids will be accepted into the program that participates in tournaments all over Georgia as well as other Southeastern states.
"The Patriots program was started by a group of soccer enthusiasts who had a vision for a county select soccer program that their sons could participate in," said Phil Sines, president of the Columbia County Patriots Soccer Club.
The select program began with six boys teams and around 100 players in the fall of 1996.
Haley Morris, 11, does some drills during soccer tryouts at Patriots Park Thursday evening. Adam Davis, 8, center kicks the ball away from opponent Robert Neville, 9.
Photo by Annette M. Drowlette
"Since then, with the strong support of the county recreation department and many enthusiastic parent-volunteers, the program has continued to grow, developing some of the area's strongest players for the middle- and high-school soccer teams," said Sines.
Indeed, the club boasts some of the best young talent in Columbia County as well as trainers and coaches, including Lakeside High School girls soccer coach Donny Rogers, who was recently named AAAA Coach of the Year and is the Patriot program's director of coaching.
"Coach Rogers has been a tremendous boost to our program," said Sines. "The support of the recreation department has also been a tremendous boost, especially this past spring. The soccer fields are in tremendous shape and the maintenance crews keep them manicured and marked ready for game play."
The Patriots Select Soccer Program is under the Columbia County Recreation Department Soccer League and is affiliated with the Georgia Youth Soccer Association. The highly-competitive program is equivalent to an all-star baseball program that runs yearlong, said Sines.
In addition to teams, the Patriots club is starting, this year, a soccer academy for boys and girls under 10 years old. The academy features teams playing local games without out of town travel requirements.
"We're looking forward to a fantastic season of Patriots soccer as we represent the Columbia County Recreation Department around the state in league play and in USYA (United States Youth Soccer Association) sanctioned tournaments throughout the Southeast region," Sines said.
Adam Davis, 8, center kicks the ball away from opponent Robert Neville, 9.
Photo by Annette M. Drowlette
Tryouts for boys and girls ages 13 through 17 continue June 12 and 17. Tryouts for boys and girls under 19 will be held tonight and June 17. The rained-out tryouts for girls that were to be held Saturday have been rescheduled for tonight at 6:30 p.m.
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