By Leila Dycus intern
The below-freezing temperatures could not keep a group of dedicated soccer players from participating in a soccer clinic hosted by Madison Area Youth Soccer Association (MAYSA) this past Saturday, Jan. 4, at Heritage Park as the first of a series of free clinics to be held in January.
Saturday’s clinics were open to all area soccer players. In addition to many Morgan County children, attendees included a number of youth from Putnam County.
“We’re teaching kids how to play a sport that isn’t necessarily that popular here or it’s certainly getting more and more popular here,” said MAYSA Director of Coaching Jamie Williams. MAYSA is a non-profit soccer organization that was started in 2008.
The MAYSA organization is associated with Georgia Soccer, with whom they work on many different levels.
According to MAYSA Coach Ryan Cathey, the clinic was the first of a series that will take place each Saturday in January to raise awareness of MAYSA in the area.
“There are a lot of kids in our MAYSA program and some that are considering it and just wanting to see what it’s all about,” said Cathey.
The January clinics begin at 10 a.m. and run until 12 p.m. For MAYSA, the January clinics will provide area players with off-season training in preparation for their season. Official MAYSA practices begin in February and games commence in March.
This week’s clinic was lead by MAYSA Head Coach Lesley Jean Baptiste. Baptiste, originally from Haiti, is a certified B level soccer coach, who has played in Miami and New York.
“He is just a fabulous energetic lover of the game, lives it breathes it, and is a lot of fun for the kids,” said Williams.
Williams stated that Baptiste’s main role as head coach is developing the kids’ understanding of how to play soccer. The morning began with players making their way to the field and warming up on their own before coming together as a group.
The field was spotted with 21 young players wrapped in jackets and headbands to deak with the chilly, 29-degree temperature. One brave high school student even came dressed in soccer shorts.
After their independent warm-ups the group gathered around Baptiste at the center of the field, where the kids worked on footwork skills.
After the warm-up with Baptiste, the group spilt into age groups and worked on drills. Baptiste spent time with each groups, working with the children on specific goals, depending on their age and skill level.
The last portion of the clinic was designed to put what the kids practiced to the test. Each group spilt into two teams and played mock games, allowing the kids to put what they learned to good use. Williams stated that MAYSA gives children of all interest levels a place to participate in soccer.
“We kind of liken it to life, the more you put into it the more you get out of it,” said Williams. “Some kids are really living, eating, breathing soccer, and some kids swim and play piano. They have other interests outside soccer and this is just something they are doing to have fun and be around their friends.”
MAYSA also equates soccer to life through their belief in practice. MAYSA players practice several times before having a game, play the game, take what they’ve learned from that game, and then practice some more.
Williams described it as being like a math test – you learn, practice, take a test, practice more and take another test. “We’re really into the love of the sport, the love of the game and discipline and practice,” said Williams. The goal of the clinic was to allow children to get out, exercise, learn the game a little more and have the chance to be around their friends.
According to Jamie Williams, 50 percent of the players present at Saturday’s game were children she had never seen before. “The more kids that play, the more local players can find kids like them because, in a small community, there’s just not that many kids,” said Williams. Saturday’s clinic was also an effort in expanding to surround areas.
MAYSA hopes to expand further into the Lake Oconee area, but MAYSA leaders acknowledge that they can’t do that without help.
“I think the biggest part is you open it up to get the word out to the lake area, get the word out that we’re here,” said Cathey. “I think just the visibility, the people that are not necessarily associated with MAYSA being here that will spread through word of mouth that should grow the program as a whole.”