Manila Youth Association (MYA) has offered the game of soccer to young athletes, ages 4-12, for the last five years.
The five-week season will end this week. MYA President Tracey Reinhart said it has been successful with 158 young people participating on the 14 teams. Teams were divided into four age groups, 4-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12. Boys and girls play on the same team.
"Soccer is relatively new to this area. It is a rushed season as we work it in between the summer baseball/softball season and basketball season. The younger kids up to seven or eight years old seem to enjoy playing soccer even more than baseball and softball," Reinhart said.
The outfield area of the baseball fields is used for the soccer games. Bleachers are moved and lawn chairs are brought out for the fans to get a good view.
"A lot of time and effort went into getting the baseball fields in good shape so we downsized the soccer fields to fit our local location. Soccer is a great sport and the kids love it," Reinhart said. "Eventually we would like to see soccer get a location of its own but for now the baseball fields are working well. We have lights so we can play at night. So far, the Manila teams have always competed against our local teams. I have had some calls this year from Paragould, Blytheville and Kennett to play games. Soccer has the potential to grow in the area. I'd like to see some of our smaller schools add soccer. It is really a relatively inexpensive sport to get started compared to the cost of other sports," Reinhart said.
Reinhart said parents are just as enthusiastic fans in soccer as in the other sports.
"It is a little more difficult to get volunteers to coach and referee because people know less about the game of soccer than baseball and softball. We are all learning and the referees and coaches are doing a good job," Reinhart said.
Reinhart said soccer mothers Scotty Reinhart, Tina Birmingham and Alisha Goff have headed up the program this year and have done a good job.
"We could not have a successful program without the parents and volunteers that are faithful, dependable and willing to help wherever they are needed. Soccer, like all of the MYA activities, is for our youth and anything that we can offer will have a positive impact on our whole community," Reinhart said.
Reinhart reported that the summer baseball/softball program had enrolled 250 youth on 18 teams for the 2002 season.
"A lot of improvements have been made at the park thanks to the city, organizations such as the Lions Club, and individual volunteers that have donated time and labor. We can take pride in our city, our park and especially our youth," Reinhart said.