Kick this around: Soccer clubs should pool together

Soccer Columnist

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The River Forest Rapids Soccer Club created a stir last week by publishing full-page, in-your-face tryout ads in the local papers, in which they touted the competitive league level of several Rapids teams versus the "competition" from the Oak Park Strikers, Berwyn Blazers and Elmwood Park Express.

The ads prompted a lengthy email from the Strikers board to its constituency, chiding the Rapids for being less than neighborly and for denigrating the Strikers positive approach to player development. Missing from the tone and content of the Rapids ad is the fact that most Rapids and Strikers players end up going to the same high school, be it OPRF or Fenwick. Which once again brings to mind the basic question: Why can't the Rapids and Strikers pool their energies to form a single high school club soccer program?

Shouldn't the goal be to develop the best competitive program for area players, rather dilute the talent simply to feed the egos of board members and professional coaches? The Strikers made such an overture to the Rapids last year to coordinate and share direction in a high school club program which the Strikers currently control, only to be rebuffed by the Rapids board. Instead, the Rapids, with no current high school club teams, are now trying to start from scratch to field high school teams next month at their tryouts. Which will be a challenge considering that they don't have any U14 teams this season. The guess here is that the Rapids leadership, given that their director of girls' coaching is the head coach at Fenwick, will focus on developing club boys' and girls' teams under the Fenwick banner.

News flash

OPRF girls' soccer beat Lyons Township! When was the last time OPRF boys' and girls' soccer teams beat Lyons Township in the same school year? Answer: I haven't been around long enough to remember (24 years in the community). The Huskie girls matched the boys result last fall by beating tenth-ranked LT 1-0 in a game that coach Doug Hunt characterized as tense from the opening whistle. If this keeps up, the Huskie soccer team will climb into the top 10 rankings to join their ranked classmates from volleyball, softball and baseball!

Fix our parks

Good news that Oak Park voters recognized that their parks need serious help, as 63 percent voted a $.25 tax hike for their park district. Community involvement including public support from user groups such as the OPRF Strikers was cited as the key to passage. And on the other side of Harlem, River Forest Park District proudly dedicated the new Keystone Park last Friday, complete with three new baseball diamonds, a full size soccer field and (gasp) lights. Thanks to the current park district board and Executive Director Tom Grundin for their hard work, and also to former board presidents Bob Altier and Patrick Deady for their foresight in bringing our parks up to a new standard.

Girls' soccer at Elmwood Park HS

A new era of girls' soccer has begun at Elmwood Park High School. Thanks to behind-the-scenes efforts of youth soccer coaches Phil Colucci and David Preston, EPHS fielded their first girls' team this spring. Coached by former OPRF Huskie graduates Sarah Melville and Suzanne Bartelsen, the JV Tigers have undergone a rocky start, but the girls will have the distinction of telling their children and grandchildren that they were charter members of the very first girls' soccer team at EPHS! For the record, the First Tigers are: Ally Whowell, Alyssa Shaeffer, Anna Walenski, Daiffany Arias, Fran Kazmierski, Gina Meza, Jackie Accoulti, Jagoda Borkiwicz, Jessica Ramirez, Jona Siko, Julitette Jiminez, Jullissa Orsoto, Kelly Fisher, Margaret Wilczek, Monica, Nilma Ortiz, Salma Deluna, and Stephanie Ramirez.

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