While teams prepare for what
could be a history-making championship, local volunteers are also joining in
with the excitement by helping the city of Edmond prepare for an event that
could potentially impact the entire community and sports scene.
More than 3,600 players from 12
states are set to take the field at this year’s Regional Championships. Combine
that with a large number of excited friends and family and you’ve got what
could definitely be a packed house on game day. Pauline Byars isn’t letting the
big crowds scare her away. As volunteer coordinator, she’s responsible for
making sure that there is enough staff to help the tournament run smoothly.
“This is huge for Oklahoma! We have hotels as far as Guthrie and Shawnee,” says
Byars. The soccer mom has been a fan of the sport for years and is hoping to
share her love with potential volunteers. As she begins to talk about the upcoming
Regional Championships, you immediately get the idea that this is definitely
one of her passions. The tournament isn’t just all fun for the sports lover.
She means business and she’s on the hunt for 1,200 like-minded fans. “We’re shooting
for over a thousand volunteers. We have all kinds of positions,” says Byars.
She is also adamant about reaching out to various communities around the
state—even those that might not directly be affiliated with the game of soccer.
Interested volunteers can sign up at edmondsoccer.com. “This is for the kids
and the love of the game. It’s our tournament, but we can’t do it without
The US Youth Soccer Association
is billed as the “The Game for ALL Kids.” And they’re not joking when they say all.
US Youth Soccer currently registers more than 3 million kids annually,
according to their official website. The job of hosting the 7-day event was a
huge undertaking for the organizing committee. “Our first meeting was in the
summer of 2011,” says organizing committee chair Karl Tipton. “You’re required
to have 16 full-sized fields to host regionals.” To ensure that a successful
bid could be made, the city of Edmond had to upgrade numerous soccer fields to
accommodate the large demand.
The committee has worked
directly with the city council, Edmond Electric, Edmond CVB and a number of
other companies and organizations to help orchestrate the tournament. UCO is
even helping kick off the excitement by hosting the opening ceremonies at
Tipton says that these and other
updates were small when compared to the huge advantages that the tournament
could have for the young players involved. “For a lot of them, making one
regional tournament could be the pinnacle of their career.” He is also excited
about the potential influence that the week-long event could have on the
players’ collegiate career as well. “All the top college coaches are going to
be there. It’s a big deal to be noticed.”
Jimmy Hampton is one coach that
knows the importance of a win at the Regional Championships. Hampton is a
college coach for the men’s and women’s programs at The University of Science
and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and he’s currently getting three
teams in shape for a potential win at the State Cup and hopefully a chance at
Regionals. “We’re training three to four days a week,” says Hampton. He is
confident that all three of his teams can advance to Regionals and hopes that
his players are able to fully grasp the importance of the tournament. “I think
it’s hard for kids to understand it until they get there. If they get there, I
think it would just mean the world to them.”
Hampton sees the upcoming
championships as a potential victory for the entire community. “They get the
opportunity to see some of the best players in the country right in their backyard.”
There’s no bigger win than that.
The Edmond Soccer Club will
definitely be one of the big winners once the final whistle is blown. They’ve
been preparing for the tournament for over two years and have been providing an
outlet through soccer for young players since 1978. The club is continuing to
ensure that the game is fun and rewarding for all players by building new
programs like TOPSoccer. The acronym stands for “The Opportunity to Play
Soccer” and provides children with disabilities with a chance to take part in
the sport. While winning might be on the minds of many of the teams, Tipton is
happy that the tournament and the Edmond Soccer Club are giving kids the
opportunity to compete while also helping the sport expand.
“I want to continue to see it
grow. I can appreciate good footwork and all the things that soccer can bring
to an athlete.”
For more information about Edmond Soccer Club and the tournament, please visit edmondsoccer.com.