YC Youth Soccer League players attend WS Herons match
GENEVA -- Local youth soccer players had the rare opportunity Sept. 25 to attend a college game, watching up close as the William Smith Herons defeated Skidmore by a score of 4-0 at Cozzens Field in Geneva.
The day started with a first for the YCYSL players and for William Smith soccer as the children were invited to escort both teams onto the field for the national anthem, just as in the professional leagues around the world. Yates County players were joined by girls from the Geneva Middle School soccer team, led by Coach Janine Debolt, who generously hosted the younger players to pizza and brownies during the match.
The event was conceived and coordinated by YCYSL coach, Mike Sullivan, who set up the visit with the help of his former coach, Aliceann Wilbur, who is leading the William Smith soccer team for her 42nd season.
"It's an awesome chance for the kids to see high-level soccer and visit a college campus," says Sullivan, who also played YCYSL for the first couple of years after it was founded in the late 1980s. "It's mostly just about being together and having some great soccer fun," he continues, "but the best part was being able to connect with the players themselves after the game."
Coach Wilbur and her players were also thrilled with the visit and answered the kids' questions during a post-game meet-and-greet, even serenading two YCYSL girls turning 11 over the weekend with the team's own original birthday song. The children's questions ranged from "What's it like being a soccer player and a student?" and "Do you ever need a tutor?" to "How high can you juggle?" and "Do you eat a lot of fruit to stay healthy?"
As a Yates County parent at the match, Jennifer Stape recalled that her daughter, Avery, "got the taste of that electric feeling even before the Herons began the game," and that she still remembers the names of the college players she was with on the field during the anthem.
Coaches, parents, and players from both HWS and YCYSL will certainly consider working together to arrange another visit in the future. As Sullivan concluded, "We couldn't have done it without all the help and support from the league, the team, and the parents -- it was a great little adventure and a lot of fun." Plans are already in the works for similar visits to Keuka College soccer games.