SALINAS VALLEY — South County Soccer League’s 56 teams converged on Patriot Park in Greenfield last Sunday for the end-of-season jamboree.
Organizers said more than 1,000 people were on the soccer fields during the course of the morning and afternoon jamboree on May 22, during which teams consisting of more than 600 players from age 3 to grade 8 competed in either season games or jamboree play.
“At the end of the season, we try to have a big event,” said Gabriel Dominguez, one of the organizers.
The league is an inclusive environment for youth, from those who barely know how to kick a soccer ball to those practicing their skills to get into a school team or traveling league invite. Organizers noted all players get time on the field to play, as the point of the league is activity rather than a win or lose mentality.
“A lot of the kids are barely learning, and we want to make sure everyone has a chance to play,” Dominguez said.
He added that the “community is coming together to make it happen,” making note of the spectator attendance, which included not only family members, but also community members who showed up to watch youth soccer.
“Each team is like a little family,” League Director Teresa Chavez said about the team bonding that takes place on the soccer field. “It shows them this is not a competitive league, this is recreational.”
Chavez explained it is in the youth league where children build their skills and develop teamwork, and then from there they can choose to move on to school teams or traveling leagues. She said some youth are naturally athletic, while others just want to learn to play.
For those who get competitive, Chavez said the league has connections with traveling leagues where players can test their skills in tournaments in San Jose or Sacramento or even as far as Las Vegas or Arizona.
“Our soccer league is the biggest and most influential rec program in South County,” Dominguez said. “Every single soccer team that put our county on the map in the last year had past participants in our programs. This includes both the state finalist Men’s Hartnell team, State Championship Women’s Hartnell team, King City High School Boys Northern California Championship, and league champions Soledad High School girls.”
Greenfield’s Patriot Park was the prime location for the jamboree and was able to be configured to many different fields of various sizes, with the youngest players kicking the ball around in fields many times smaller than the full-size fields of the teens.
The league holds games from Gonzales to King City, where other city parks can accommodate both adult and youth games taking place side-by-side, but nothing as large in scale as more than 50 teams playing in one day.
Chavez said depending on layout, there could be as many as 15 active soccer fields at once.
“Greenfield is the best spot for the jamboree, but we cannot have the league in one spot,” Chavez noted. “We have to give the players an opportunity to have games at home.”
In addition to activity in a game and team building, Chavez said youth gain other benefits, such as confidence.
“Right now there’s a lot of bullying going on and there’s kids that are stressed or depressed,” she said. “There’s people who have come to us saying their kid was shy, now they learned to play and now they don’t want to stop coming to practices because the coaches make a difference.”
Chavez explained having teams for boys and girls helps with confidence, especially for girls who get to play among themselves rather than overly aggressive boys who could scare beginners.
“We’re learning values,” Chavez said. “Some kids are releasing their stress and becoming more open with friends rather than being shy.”
The next season is already in planning, with registration beginning in June and practices to be held in July. Chavez said she would like to see a jamboree or tournament take place in the summer before the next season’s start on Sept. 4.
Those interested in signing up can contact Chavez at 831-682-6717.