By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
With names like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi becoming household names, and events such as the UEFA Champions League, World Cup and MLS Cup drawing high ratings on television, it’s no surprise soccer is one of the fastest rising sports in America.
That much was obvious at the 17th annual Darrell Moore Memorial Classic at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex, as more than 40 teams from all over the region invaded the pitch, showcasing their skills in hopes of going home as champions.
“I think it’s great for the kids,” Oak Hill Rapids coach Greg Hewitt said. “It’s a great opportunity that the YMCA provides. It’s an excellent location. It’s well staffed and a well-run event.”
Hewitt has seen first-hand the growth of “the beautiful game” in the Mountain State. He was a member of the very first recreational league team in Oak Hill-Fayetteville. He now spends his time coaching a U-10 coed and U-12 girls travel teams.
“Travel teams are a little bit different than rec teams,” Hewitt explained. “Rec teams will play (at Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex) or in Oak Hill or wherever. They just play other local teams. We go out of state and compete in tournaments.”
Hewitt has already had his Rapids squad competing in tournaments in Virginia, North Carolina and the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
“I’ve got kids that played every sport you can think of,” Hewitt said. “For the younger kids, this is the best sport for them to play. Not to knock the other sports, but this particularly is the best sport they can play, in my opinion.”
For Hewitt, it’s all about the experience.
“I remember how much fun it was when we got to go to places (and play),” Hewitt said. “I don’t think we ever won a game! It certainly wasn’t that, but the experience, that’s what we tried to provide for these kids. That’s why we take them places.”
Events like the Darrell Moore Memorial Classic, YMCA youth soccer in the spring and fall and growing middle school and high school teams are all playing a large role in the growth, Hewitt said.
“Hopefully it’ll keep growing and keep getting bigger,” Hewitt said. “I think this tournament has grown from the numbers last year and it’s bigger than it was last year. I would expect it to be even bigger next year.”
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While the Darrell Moore Memorial Classic wrapped up Sunday, it won’t be the last event to take place this season. Next week will bring in the West Virginia Soccer Association’s State Cup to the complex, showcasing the best U-12 through U-18 squads in West Virginia.
The Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors will also kick off their sophomore season at 7 p.m. Saturday, as they take on in-state rival West Virginia Chaos in the West Virginia Coal Cup Clash. That game will also take place at the complex.
— E-mail: jrollins@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.