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Youth league offers kids soccer skills

Michael Kerekes | The Natchez Democrat — Sports Center’s Elly Diesen, left, looks to field the ball as teammate James Meriwether, center, and Strike Force’s Paxton Junkin give chase in a Natchez Youth Soccer Organization matchup Sunday afternoon at Morgantown Middle School.

NATCHEZ — Learning the importance of having a good attitude is just one thing Jessi Green has taken away from a local youth soccer league.

Green is currently a member of the 15-and-under Gillon Group team and has played in the Natchez Youth Soccer Organization since she was 6 years old. Since she’s homeschooled, Green said it’s nice having a league that allows her to play, and she’s learned a lot from being a part of NYSO.

“I’ve learned patience and how to be a good sport whenever you lose,” Green said. “You have to know that each team has weaknesses and strong points, and you can’t be mad if you lose.”

A good attitude is just one of several things the league is trying to instill in young soccer players. Donovan Silva, who oversees NYSO, said teaching young athletes the game of soccer is important to the league’s coaches.

“We want to establish the basic skills and just give them a love of the game,” Silva said. “We just want to keep filtering these kids in all the way through the high school level. We also want to get parents familiar with it.”

The league ranges from ages 4 to 16 and has games every Sunday afternoon. Play began in late August and runs through Nov. 4.

One of the challenges with running a local soccer league is attracting interest, Silva said, especially when they’re competing with other youth athletics.

“Numbers are our biggest challenge, both with kids and coaches,” Silva said. “Football is a big competitor (for us). I have two kids that don’t make it to practice at all, but they make it to the games.”

For Green, soccer is the only sport she knows, and she said she’s been playing for at least 10 years.

“It’s aggressive at times, but it’s fun, and I get to take out all my energy on the ball,” Green said.

Emma Hogue, who plays for the league’s ServPro team, said she’s learned the importance of teamwork by playing with other local children.

“You have to work together,” Hogue said. “You can’t just do everything by yourself.”

As a member of Cathedral High School’s girl’s soccer team, Hogue also said having non-high school games is a good way to stay in playing shape.

“I play soccer five to six months out of the year,” Hogue said. “Practice makes perfect.”