Thursday, May 14, 2015

A soccer field would be a welcome addition to Evergreen Municipal Park

There’s been some talk recently about the possible construction of a soccer field at Evergreen Municipal Park, and in my opinion doing so would only add to the appeal of the park.

Friday evening, I rode over to the park to get a few action shots of the Cal Ripken showdown between the Marlins and Cardinals, and as I was leaving I saw an unexpected sight. On the way home, as I made my way around the park, I thought I could make out the local Babe Ruth team practicing on the Babe Ruth field.

As I got closer, I realized that what I was actually seeing was a sizable group of young men playing a friendly, laid back game of soccer. All of them looked Hispanic, and I can only presume that they live near the park and work in one of the local factories. They all seemed to be smiling and having a good time.

I had half a mind to jump out of the truck with my camera, but I changed my mind, not wanting to spoil their fun. Besides a potential language barrier, there’s nothing like an unexpected stranger with a camera to make athletes feel self-conscious. Rather than stop, I continued on and somewhat envied the good time they appeared to be having.

In the short amount of time that it took me to drive by them, I noticed that some of them appeared to be pretty serious soccer fans. Some of them had really nice equipment, including slick soccer shoes and pro team jerseys. They obviously took what they were doing seriously, but not so seriously that it took all the fun out of it.

Outside the U.S., soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and while I’ve never played organized soccer, it looks like really good exercise. You’re basically running the entire time, and the hardest part of the game appears to be that you have to remember not to use your hands. It's hard to think of a sport that would be better for a kid who likes to spend all of his time with a video game controller in his hands.

If there were a real soccer field at the park, this would give local kids another sporting option, especially in the fall. Let’s face it, football’s not for everybody, and more than a few kids would likely choose to play soccer if given the choice. Many kids shy away from football because of all the rough, physical contact involved, and soccer would probably be more appealing to that set of kids.

A regulation-sized soccer field, which is technically called a soccer “pitch,” could also be used by Hillcrest High School and Sparta Academy, should either of those schools ever decided to field soccer teams. When I worked at the newspaper in Waynesboro, Miss., the large public high school there fielded a girls soccer team, and that program thrived as more than a few girls chose to play soccer instead of softball in the spring.

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