Mar 5, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterImagine if you were a kid in Riverton and wanted to play competitive soccer. And let's say you knew your parents would agree with the advertisement that was in Sunday's Ranger that said, "If your child is ready for a more competitive league," then you should sign up for the Riverton Rampage spring soccer program.
"Hey, Mom and Dad, this would be awesome," you might think.
But you are 13 years old and you have been around the block.
You know that you can't even ask because the $125 registration fee would be too much for your family to afford at this time and, when you add in hotels and food and gas and cleats... well, you know it may just be best to hope for next year.
That was Riverton High School head coach Erly Cornejo's story when he was a young teenager.
"I couldn't play when I was a kid, because it was too expensive," Cornejo said.
It's more expensive now, but there is a chance that stories like Cornejo's all over Wyoming, at least where soccer is concerned, can finally have happy endings.
The Riverton Middle School and its activities director, Tim Bell, are working hard to get a middle school soccer program in place. It's an important undertaking, and, even though it won't happen this season, I hope the program is enthusiastically supported by our community and other middle schools soon.
The idea of establishing a middle school soccer program is solid on many levels.
The program is necessary to support the kids that simply can't afford to play club level soccer in Riverton and in Wyoming, even though Riverton's fees are not among the state's highest.
Soccer, whether we want to admit it or not, is becoming an elitist sport, according to Cornejo.
Add to that the fact that the middle school track program had more 130 athletes participating last year and is simply too big to manage and provide adequate practice and meet experience for its participants, according to Bell.
The opportunity to establish a properly-run middle school soccer program is here, and other western Wyoming middle schools should follow Bell's and Riverton's lead.
"We would be ecstatic about it," RMS middle school teacher and assistant high school soccer coach Aziz Waheed said.
If it hasn't already, the Riverton Rampage club soccer program should support this effort and find a way to encourage its players to also play on the middle school teams when established, both boys and girls. In fact, much like the RYSA's requirement from years ago that kids had to play recreational soccer in order to play competitive soccer, the local soccer club should realize that it would be in the best interest of the local program to require its middle school aged kids to participate in a new RMS program when it takes off and commit to working with the school to see that both programs can co-exist.
In fact, the Wyoming Youth Soccer Association should realize that a strong middle school soccer program in all of Wyoming will only help the sport.
"If we can increase numbers at the high school level, we'll have increased competition in practice, and we will play at a higher level in games because we'll have more kids competing for spots. That's good," Cornejo said.
He's right. And, kids with fewer skills can learn from their more-experienced teammates -- kids who might not have been able to afford to play with their peers until now.
"We want to get more kids interested in having fun. We get a lot of first time players as freshmen. If we structure it properly to have a kind of feeder program, it would be tremendous," Waheed said.
When established, the Riverton Middle School program will have a chance to teach technique properly, get kids touches on the ball and use community expertise to develop a competitive RMS Spartan team with high expectations. Let's hope others follow Riverton's lead and get it right from the beginning for both boys and girls middle school soccer teams."This program shouldn't be just recess," one coach said.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!
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