As another season of summer soccer begins, the Columbia County Patriots Soccer Club is on the brink of some major changes.
"It should be a soccer-filled summer," Club President Hal Cohen said. "The club is definitely moving in the right direction."
The excitement surrounding the Patriots is two-fold. They'll soon break in a brand new soccer facility when Blanchard Woods Park is scheduled to open in September with five soccer fields. Along with the new home, the club has welcomed new coaches.
Forrest Wimberly, Augusta Prep's boys and girls soccer coach and a nine-year veteran coach with the Augusta Arsenal, has left his position with the Arsenal to take over as technical director of the Columbia County Patriots Soccer Club. Wes Meadows, also a veteran soccer coach, is the new academy director.
Wimberly will oversee the U13-U19 teams as well as coach the U13 boys team while Meadows will work with the U12-and-under teams.
"The club and the program needs to go to an academy concept," Patriots Director of Operations Andrew Hammer said. "The board approved it all last night."
Since then, Wimberly has wasted no time getting started.
"We have a big week of tryouts that start on June 11, and it's kind of a relaunch of the club," Wimberly said. "It's a fresh start, so to speak."
Wimberly said the move will not impact any of his duties at Augusta Prep, but his summers will be busier.
"It's a pretty neat opportunity for me to be one of the leaders at the club," he said. "I'm going to be coaching the U13 boys, but I'll also be working with all the teams. I'm going to be coaching the coaches, and we're really going to address training and game management. We're going to improve the overall training and the structure of management within the club."
The Columbia County Patriots Soccer Club consists of 21 teams with more than 300 participants. As many as 1,000 soccer players are in the Columbia County Recreation Department's soccer program. The numbers are a testament to its growing popularity.
"It's grown especially on the girls' side," Meadows said. "I remember when I was in high school girls only played soccer just to stay in shape. Maybe one or two of them played year-round. Now it's basically the whole starting 11."
Wimberly said the new changes and new soccer facility will have a strong impact on the level of play from the soccer club for all age groups. Blanchard Woods Park will serve almost exclusively as a soccer-only facility and one of the fields will be a stadium with 800 permanent seats.
"All the fields are 120 (yards) by 75 so they're perfect. Looking ahead at tournaments, it will be the nicest facility in the whole area. This will rival what they have in Columbia," Wimberly said. "This is really going to be a strong draw for the club and will help the club be on the map. Now we're going to get the soccer on the field up to par with that facility. In a year or so we're going to have a really powerful club."
Tryouts for the Columbia County Patriots Soccer Club boys and girls U13-U19 teams will take place at Patriots Park in Grovetown on June 11, 12, 14, 16 and 18.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.