By Peter Mayer
HOUGHTON -- The clouds parted, the sun shone through, and it became clear that God is a soccer fan. The 16-18-year-old Copper Country Soccer Association (CCSA) championships commenced on a gloomy day at the start of July; but, as the players stepped onto the fresh green turf at Michigan Tech’s Sherman Field, the weather finally cooperated, letting out the sun as if to give a nod of approval to the players.
The whistle blew, and the air was filled with the sound of stampeding cleats. Game play was fiercely competitive; clearly neither team would let go of a victory they had worked so hard to achieve.
In the first match on Thursday, July 1, the Auto Pro Glass and the Tire Reds forced the series into two games after a winning goal by Chris Coy defeated the Pat’s Foods Blues 4-3 in double overtime.
On Friday, July 2, the Blues opened scoring with a goal by the Blues' Evan Griffith -- followed by a penalty kick by Dylan Borel. The Reds' Heath Johnson responded with his own penalty kick, but ultimately the Reds fell short after the Blues' goal by Matt Strong and another penalty kick by Dylan Borel. The Blues won the division championship 4-1.
The excitement, the turnout of fans and the intensity of the players all validate the immense popularity of youth soccer. Every year the CCSA grows as more kids and teens discover the allure of the sport. Run completely by volunteers, the CCSA celebrates the diversity of players from all areas of the Keweenaw.
Camaraderie between players is strong even with the assortment of kids from different areas. This all-inclusive league allows players of any level of experience or skill to play on a team and assures some playing time to all. This challenges the coaches, who must teach the sport to all kinds of players in a small amount of practice time. That challenge, however, is exactly what the coaches love about the CCSA.
"Yeah it is tough but the toughest part is pulling (a player) off (the field)," the Blues' Coach Todd Mattson explained.
The Reds' Coach Chris Coy attributes most of the league’s growth to the players.
"I think it’s growing because we get a lot of kids who start young and get their friends to play," Coy said.
The Reds' Assistant Coach Bob Wheeler identifies diversity as the best aspect of the league.
"What I like about soccer is that it’s a mix of kids from different schools," Wheeler explained. "When (the players) see kids from different schools they are less of the enemy."
Good sportsmanship is emphasized and the players understand the principles. It is common to see players helping their opponents up off the ground or supporting their dismayed teammates who commit an error.
The recent change from Hancock High School fields to Sherman Field also contributes to the growth of the sport. The proximity to the city and the larger fan seating increase exposure to the community. Both coaches and players note a definite improvement in playing on a turf field.
As Coach Coy puts it, "It takes the field variable out of the picture and lets the players' skill shine through."
Diversity, camaraderie, enthusiasm, sportsmanship: all these aspects promote a league that provides a constructive and fun activity for a growing community of youth soccer players.
Editor's Note: Guest reporter Peter Mayer is a student in David Clanaugh's summer journalism class at Michigan Tech.