Olyphant resident David Patchcoski helped start Mid Valley Youth Soccer years ago, he had no idea what to expect. But since then, the league has grown exponentially and, after weathering a year of COVID-19 pandemic challenges, he’s looking forward to a new season of soccer. Registration for the fall season is now open; find out more at www.midvalleyyouthsoccer.com, and read on to find out how the league makes each season a success.

Q: How did Mid Valley Youth Soccer get started?

A: The league was started as an idea during a discussion between myself and Michael Schroader, a former neighbor of mine. He played soccer extensively during his youth. The Midvalley did not have a feeder program for the school district and kids were traveling to other towns to play. The foundation of the league was always to keep the kids in the Midvalley to make and sustain friendships by playing soccer together starting at 4 years old. Originally, being from Dunmore, I played sports with the same kids from 4 to 18. I think the youth sports programs help drive success at the high school level, academically and athletically.

The league has changed dramatically since it first started. In the first year, we were worried we wouldn’t even get 100 kids to sign up. We end up with about 130. Our last regular season (2019), we had over 240 participants. The first year our concession stand consisted of two plastic tables and we only had the funding to provide the participants with a T-shirt and socks as a uniform. Thanks to the hard work of many people who currently serve and have served previously on our board, we were able to purchase a customized shed to serve as a concession stand and we provide a full uniform — shirt, shorts and socks — to every child. Every year, we also give a MVYS gift to everyone who signs up. Most of the time we provided water bottles, however, during the pandemic last year we bought everyone a gaiter mask which they were able to use during our season. This year, we were also able to install a scoreboard for one of our fields which was donated by funding obtained from local businesses. The three boroughs within Mid Valley School District also have been very supportive of the league. They allow us to use the parks free of charge and also maintain our fields for us.

Q: Kids can start in your league as young as 4. What do kids that young learn about the game?

A: For every child under 5, they start in our instructional league. The purpose of this division is to teach the kids the basics of soccer and to have fun doing it. We outsource this training to Next Level Soccer. They really do a good job of organizing activities to keep the kids engaged and having fun. Towards the end of the training, we have the kids play a scrimmage. It’s mostly for the parent’s enjoyment!

Again, I think the most important part of playing sports when you are young is that is helps the kids form friendships that may last for years to come. These friendships extend into the community and also helps to drive a better experience when these kids go to school together. I’ll never forget my son coming home from school one day and saying, “Dad, I saw Jacob in school today!” He is still friends with him to this day and would have probably never met him if it wasn’t for soccer. He lives in a different town within the school district and they may have never crossed paths.

The coaching is provided by parents throughout the recreation league. This year, we have started a club program called the Spartan Soccer Academy. Carlos Perez, who has coached travel soccer for a couple years and played for Marywood, is our coach. For those who want to take soccer more seriously, they get advanced training and will travel to play teams in the Lehigh Valley, the Philadelphia region and even into New Jersey. We have had great success in just under a year with over 60 children from the Midvalley and also other areas are expected to attend our tryouts. We have a commitment to keep the costs low. We want to be able to give every child the ability to enjoy the game without the parents having to make a large financial commitment.

Q: How did COVID-19 affect your season last year? How is it affecting your season this year?

A: What a challenge last year was. There was so much uncertainty and our board had some challenging conversations. However, we agreed that if we all put the necessary work in to keep everyone safe, we would be able to give kids an escape from the changes they were experiencing with the pandemic. We had the kids play in a 3v3 style format. This was designed to keep the teams smaller in case a team had to quarantine. As I said before, we purchased gaiter masks for all of our participants and also coaches. We had signage and also hand sanitizer stations to remind players and parents to stay a safe distance apart and to please sanitize their hands when entering the park. Every child was also temperature checked prior to each game. We bought kids two sets of uniforms in case they had to switch teams. We were impacted financially as we spent over $11,000 on these requirements. We were blessed to be very successful fundraising in the past. The kids and parents were great with abiding by all the rules as we were able to complete our entire season.

Thankfully the COVID numbers seem to be decreasing with the vaccinations available. We will see what the fall season brings as to what the CDC requires.Q: What does the league have to do to get a season started?

A: Starting the season comes with a lot of work. Starting in July, we will usually setup our two fields, one in Olyphant and one in Dickson City. Unlike a baseball field where you can walk on it and basically play the sport, we have to measure out and spray paint our fields. We assign a board member each week to re-paint the lines to keep them from disappearing. We also order the uniforms and get the concession stand ready for the upcoming season. We usually solicit donations to help with stocking the concession stand. We usually have a cookout for all the families the first week of the season where we give out free hamburgers and hot dogs. It’s one way for us to say thank you to the community.

Not every person, including myself, played a ton of soccer as a kid. This proved to be a challenge in the beginning. But again, the community has been awesome. People have volunteered to help in any way they can. I believe during our last season we had 23 coaches sign up. It was unbelievable. The area has really embraced the sport.

We have a board member who specifically designs our schedule. He is really good at spreadsheets! Our 5u through 10u divisions play in-house. They play each other so we that scheduling is entirely up to us. Our 12u division currently travels to play other teams within the area. Our local governing body, NEPSAY, creates that schedule to coordinate among all of the leagues.

Q: Why does soccer continue to be a popular sport, especially for youth?

A: I think soccer is not only entertaining to watch, but it’s also a great form of exercise for children. I also think parents are thinking twice about their kids playing football at a younger age. This has led kids to other sports, including soccer. Additionally, soccer is played as a coed sport so it is easier for your child to be involved. The sport is growing exponentially in the United States.

All sports are team sports. It about the whole team succeeding. I think this is an important lesson. However, there is a responsibility to play your position individually in soccer. When the ball is at your feet, you must make a decision and sometimes quickly. These skills will pay off in life as the kids grow up, go to college, and enter the work force.