By Brad Spencer
Our comment board at oakpark.com last week lit up after the announcement that the OPRF Strikers and River Forest Rapids youth soccer clubs were merging to form Chicago Edge SC. As of writing this on Monday afternoon, the posts had reached 133.
Good news: I did a little research and found that this new entity will not bring about the downfall of human existence as we know it.
According to Collette Heaphy, the OP-RF Strikers executive administrator, 85-90 percent of participants are local Oak Park or River Forest residents.
“It’s not our objective to recruit kids from other areas,” she said. “The goal is to have one club where players have an opportunity to develop their soccer skills. It’s funny because we have several families that play in both the Strikers and the Rapids organizations.”
Great. It’s mainly for local kids, and run by local people. A gap has been bridged. Harlem is safe to cross — well, maybe not literally.
I also discovered that the merger will benefit the local high schools — OPRF, Fenwick and Trinity. How? These kids will have the opportunity to play together on one team, and therefore chemistry is created at an early stage.
Perfect. Cohesiveness is a good thing. Soccer is a sport where chemistry is vital to a team’s success.
OK, but what about Johnny? He tried out for Chicago Edge and didn’t make the cut. Most of his friends did. He’s discouraged, but there is still park district soccer and AYSO. There are also other club teams outside the area that don’t require a tryout. Johnny will join those teams, gain more friends, and keep playing the sport he loves. Yes, the club players play more and the club competition will likely aid in the development of a player’s potential quicker but don’t underestimate programs like AYSO.
“I think AYSO is great,” said Paul Wright, head coach of the OPRF High School boys program. “I played it for years. I have had several players in my program come out of that league as well. AYSO also does great things for our program.”
Wonderful. The more options the better. Daniel Jordan, an Oak Parker who is the regional commissioner for AYSO seems to agree.
“Oak Park AYSO has had very good relationships with both Strikers and Rapids for the last several years,” he said. “We have invited both clubs to distribute information about their programs at our registration events, and we have had many players who have played both AYSO and Strikers or Rapids during the same seasons.”
What about the local fields Chicago Edge will play on? Soccer space is scarce in this area, always has been. Heck, open space of any kind is scarce in this area.
Well, the clubs have always paid to use the fields. Chicago Edge will continue to and, again, the majority of the participants are local, so they’re basically playing on their own fields anyway.
Fantastic. Local kids practicing on local fields, and isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?
I like to think of myself as a purist, but specialized club sports appear to be here to stay. The Windmills (club softball), the Longhorns (club baseball) and AAU (club basketball) are just a few in our area that have taken off. Whether it’s a house league or a club team, my kids will hopefully dabble in both.
And maybe the world won’t end because of it.
Answer Book 2019
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