Soccer in Cullman – What’s old is new
Most folks in the area aren’t aware that around 700 children play soccer in Cullman County. Or that over 300 games take place at Heritage Park during the fall season (September through the end of October). Add to that the fact that the number of high schools with soccer teams has grown to five – Cullman, Fairview, Holly Pond, St. Bernard and West Point – with two others considering adding soccer as a high school sport.
From soccer’s humble roots over 30 years ago, it’s grown by leaps and bounds. Soccer in Cullman began with its establishment as Region 414 with the American Youth Soccer Association in 1984. Over the past 33 years, Cullman’s Heritage Park has hosted numerous AYSO soccer tournaments and has been the site of multiple club games and tournaments. Jacob Swann, the CUSC operations director, commented that soccer, like several other sports, has two basic levels – recreational soccer and competitive soccer. Competitive soccer, also known as club soccer, is similar to travel baseball in that players try out for teams, practice two to three times each week and play several games on the weekends, often traveling to Huntsville, Birmingham and surrounding cities. AYSO, in partnership with Cullman Parks & Recreation, has provided the majority of recreational soccer over the years. The Cullman Futbol Club (CFC), through its affiliation with the Birmingham United Soccer Association (BUSA), has been the major club soccer program.
What’s new in soccer in Cullman
So what is new with soccer? Due to the growth of soccer in the area, AYSO, CFC and Cullman Parks & Recreation felt the community would be best served by one entity serving as the umbrella organization for both recreational and club soccer. That new entity is the recently formed Cullman United Soccer Club (CUSC).
“The beauty of CUSC is that it allows a player to register for soccer at the basic registration fee of $95, then participate in the program that best suits his or her level of skill and commitment,” said Rickey Kreps, president of the CUSC board.
Greg Brown, vice-president of the competitive program, explained that CUSC offers four levels of soccer. Junior Academy is for players ages 4-7. This program is devoted to developing basic soccer skills for all the players in the age group. It does so by conducting group practices, led by a trained soccer instructor, and taught by volunteer coaches. The instructor demonstrates the skills to the coaches, who, in turn, teach the skill to the players. This method of instruction allows all players to be exposed to the same skills training. It also provides the coaches a template by which they can run their team practices.
The CUSC Recreational program’s vice-president, Dan Brunetti, stated that the recreational side is basically the AYSO program that has been around since the beginning of soccer in Cullman. This is for players ranging from 8 to 18 years old. At the 8-year-old level, CUSC board member Mike Krassick explained that players are exposed to an expansion of the rules, taught basic game strategy, and goal keepers are introduced into the game. Recreational games will be refereed by paid referees who will be provided free training by CUSC staff.
The Academy program is competitive soccer, headed up by Jacob Brown and Gerard Chomskis. Recreational players have the option to try out for one of the club teams. The tryout provides the coaches a brief opportunity to evaluate a player’s soccer skills, their understanding of the game strategy and their ability to function as a member of a team. Players who make the Academy team then pay the additional fees associated with the club program. The State League, the most competitive club program, requires tryouts, is limited to 12 year olds and also requires additional fees.
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