The LIJSL Club-To-Club Player Development Initiative is in its second year, providing another opportunity for some of the youngest members of the league to participate in a fun, learning environment.
Last year was the program’s pilot run with teams from East Islip Soccer Club, Sachem Soccer Club, Kings Park Soccer Club, Northport Cow Harbor Club and added for this year has been Smithtown Kickers Soccer Club.
“It’s been really fun so far,” Smithtown Club Coordinator Paul Kaplan said.
“It’s definitely a little different. The kids have been playing since they were three or four years old and now they are seven and eight, so it’s nice to have a change of pace, playing against different teams and different coaches.”
The program has only grown since the first edition.
“I think this year there’s a much bigger group than last year,” East Islip trainer Tracy Soldano said. “There’s more players involved.”
During some of the PDI weekends, all the clubs will gather in one location, similar to LIJSL Club Development Days and their festival-like atmosphere.
“It’s great that they all come here,” Soldano said during the most recent event at Westbrook Athletic Complex in East Islip. “We’ve been to the other fields, too. Each club does a great job with their program. It’s fun to get all the clubs together so having it at one location is great.”
The focus of these weekends is on teaching and for the players to honing their technique and work on the building blocks as a player for when they get older. Making sure the players are having fun while doing so, though, is also paramount.
“At this age, they are getting more touches,” Kaplan said. “Playing different teams and incorporating the trainers, it’s nice. It’s just more soccer and it’s good for them.”
Soldano added: “They have so much fun. There are always smiles on their faces and they’ll do a move and look at you like, ‘Oh I did that move’ and you have to be like ‘Come on, let’s keep playing.’ “
LIJSL Technical Director Ronan Wiseman noted why LIJSL has had success with the program after its trial run a year ago.
“Development for players at the ages of seven and eight is important, but having the players play in an environment that is encouraging and fun is just as important,” he said. “The clubs that have participated these first two years have taken the initiative to provide their players with such an environment, and from an LIJSL perspective we hope to see the program grow even further in the future.”
For Kaplan, he believed it should be only the beginning for first-time participant Smithtown.
“I would definitely hope so,” he added about the club returning in the future.
For any additional info on the program, please contact Ronan Wiseman at firstname.lastname@example.org.