By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
SHADY SPRING —
The weather outside may be frightful, but inside the KSI Sports Gym, it’s “Shweet.”
The second annual “It’s So Shweet” Indoor Soccer Tournament began Saturday morning, as teams from around the state gathered at the old Shady Spring Junior High to do battle, not on the grassy surfaces of the soccer pitch, but on the hardwood.
Teams of five gathered on the former Tigers court for a fast-paced, high-energy game of soccer.
“I’ll tell ya, kids really develop the ball skills here playing indoor,” tournament director John Foster said. “You have a smaller surface, the ball moves faster and you get ball control. It makes a big difference in preparing kids for the outdoor game.”
Kids from all over West Virginia came together on a snowy weekend to play. It’s a sign of growth in the region for the world’s most popular sport.
“We just finished an indoor league here. It was our third year,” Foster said.
“The first year we had 108 kids, the second we had 119 and this year we had 154 kids. It’s really growing. People are starting to understand more about the game of soccer at all age levels. Around here, soccer didn’t really start until the middle school level, but programs like the YMCA and Upward are really helping towards development.”
Saturday’s games featured boys U-12 and U-16 and a coed U-14 division.
“The tournament’s been going very good so far,” Foster said. “We’ve already finished with one division today — came down to a playoff between the Ripley FCRUB-13 and Rapids U-14 girls with the Ripley boys taking the champion shirts and the girls got the finalist shirts.”
Even with single-digit temperatures and upwards of eight inches of snow expected to fall on the area over the weekend, Foster said he only had one team cancel.
“We had one team pull out due to weather. Where they’re from it gets really bad,” he said. “They weren’t worried about getting here; it was getting back home that was going to be difficult.”
One team represented in the tournament is a name familiar to many who follow youth soccer in the state — the West Virginia Rapids.
“A lot of them represent the southern part of the state,” Foster said. “We have kids on the Rapids U-16 team from Princeton, Fayetteville, Beckley and PikeView that are all represented. The U-13 are all going to Woodrow and played together for years. A lot of them had been on the Rapids.”
Foster said there were so many players from the Rapids playing in the tournament that it created confusion.
“I had two teams in one division who registered as Rapids U-12,” Foster said with a chuckle. “One’s from Fayette and Nicholas County, kind of an Oak Hill and Summersville combo, and the other is from Beckley. I had to identify them by the coach!”
Foster was thankful for the support Sheetz has brought as a sponsor.
“Sheetz has been a truly great sponsor for us,” he said. “They give us a food coupon for a Made-To-Order drink and a Made-To-Order sandwich for every participant and coach. That’s awesome.”
The tournament will finish today when the girls U-12 kick off at 9 a.m. and the girls U-18 at 12:20 p.m. The boys U-18 will round out the tournament at 3:20 p.m.
The event is free to the public.
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