YMCA opens spring soccer season in style

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The YMCA of Chilton County’s American Youth Soccer Organization 2024 spring season kicked off on April 5-6 fielding the largest number of players and teams in the program’s existence. The program, which sees larger participation numbers in the spring seasons compared to the fall seasons, will have 34 teams from 6U-14U and 321 players during the spring 2024 season. That number is up from 240 players in spring 2023, and nearly a 100 more than the fall 2023 season with 222 players.

“We have had a wonderful amount of growth … This is by far the biggest season we have had so far,” program coordinator Rebecca Corley said.

YMCA of Chilton County board member Josh Elmore started the program and built the foundation for Corley to take over in the fall of 2021. Corley said Elmore has been a great asset to lean on and learn from during her time as coordinator, and she appreciates the help he has given to making advancements with soccer in Chilton County.

The opening ceremonies for the spring season were split into two days due to the large number of teams and players, and the 6U and 8U teams took center stage first on April 5. The YMCA soccer program’s relationship with the Chilton County High School soccer programs continued to grow as current CCHS senior soccer player Jorge Castillo was the honorary first kick to open play for the day.

The 10U, 12U and 14U teams were recognized on the morning of April 6 during their opening ceremonies. Shelby LeAnne Danison sang the national anthem, and YMCA board members and Clanton City Councilmembers Billy Singleton and Don Driver were in attendance. CCHS varsity boy’s soccer head coach Brandon Gurganus was the honorary first kick of the second day.

“It has been a blessing … It has been fun, and we are seeing more and more kids feed into the (Chilton County) High School program.” Corley said.

Being the only high school or club soccer program in Chilton County outside of the YMCA’s program, CCHS has developed a farm-system like relationship with the AYSO program that is feeding its players into the Tiger’s programs. The AYSO program has welcomed former players and current CCHS soccer players back to be referees during the season in the past and are continuing that in 2024. The YMCA is also having some of those former AYSO players and current CCHS soccer players be coaches for the teams as well.

Corley said that having the CCHS program here is keeping some kids who want to play high school or club soccer in Chilton County. Without it, those kids would have to attend school outside of Chilton County or be homeschooled to compete at those levels. Corley’s son, a current player at CCHS, is an example of one of those kids.

“My son was home schooled up to a certain point, but because he plays soccer and we have this great program at the high school now, I felt like he should go,” Corley said. “If that program was not at the high school, we would have to continue to home school so he could play with a school in Alabaster. It is a great thing for these kids because they have something they can feed into.”

Not all players in the AYSO program attend Clanton schools, but Corley said she has seen players from other schools in Chilton County transfer to CCHS to be able to play in its program. Her hope is that more high schools in Chilton County will field soccer programs to expand the options for the over 300 soccer players in the AYSO program looking for a club or program after 14U, or 14-15 years old.

The YMCA of Chilton County’s AYSO 2024 spring season has a record number of 8U teams (11) and 14U teams (4) participating.