Despite the freezing temperatures, spring soccer season is right around the corner, and many clubs in central Arkansas begin registration this month. That will lead to lots of questions from parents about the safety of the sport.
Youth soccer has been under a microscope in recent months with a study released by New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine stating that the sport can lead to significant injury for players who attempt 1,000 or more “headers” a year. According to local experts, soccer is no more dangerous to your child than everyday life, and parents shouldn’t fret about purchasing special helmets or head-padding to protect their little ones on the fields this spring.
“Young kids aren’t really coordinated enough to do headers anyway, so it’s not much of a concern,” said Dr. Eugene Lu, a pediatrician in Little Rock whose 9- and 7-year-old boys play with the Little Rock Futbol Club. “What we see [in the office] with kids who play soccer, is mild injuries to the lower legs, knees and ankles, but they’re not not many injuries to the torso or head. There are injuries that can happen, but they happen with all contact sports. Kids will be kids.”
Options in Central Arkansas
Central Arkansas parents have several options for their child’s participation in soccer (see sidebar). The Westside Y runs the oldest soccer club in the area on Sam Peck. Westside Y’s soccer is played at Henderson Middle School and at The Ranch on Highway 10.
The largest of the area clubs, with more than 1,500 players, is the Little Rock Futbol Club, which for now plays its games in the Riverdale area and Murray Park, but is hopeful to soon have fields on Highway 10.
The Arkansas Soccer Club competes at Burns Park, while Maumelle, Lakewood, Sherwood, Cabot, Bryant, Conway and other towns in the area offer recreational and highly competitive Classic soccer, and most also feature some type of skills development as well as games.
Nick Sherwood, who played at Little Rock Catholic High and University of Central Arkansas, serves as Executive Director of the Little Rock Futbol Club. Over the years, he says, the club has placed additional emphasis on Academy soccer in addition to the recreational leagues and Classic levels that have been a 30-year mainstay.
Academy is a program run by professional staff coaches for U7 to U10 players. “It’s an environment where kids can train together, and the coaches will bounce around to different groups and not stay with the same group of kids,” Sherwood said. Typically starting around age 10, the more skilled players join Classic teams for serious, competitive soccer coached by experienced mentors.
“[Soccer] is appealing to parents, to families, because it’s not a super-expensive sport,” Sherwood said. “You don’t have to pay a ton of money for equipment like you do with football. You buy a pair of cleats and you’re ready to go.”
It’s also a draw for younger children because of the constant activity, he said, and the benefits to coordination are well-documented and how that helps youngsters’ transition to other sports. “It’s just such a dynamic sport, it’s what we call an anaerobic endurance activity. It will transfer to any sport you play,” Sherwood said.
Where to Play
The following youth soccer clubs in central Arkansas are sanctioned
by Arkansas State Soccer Association:
Arkansas Soccer Club
Offers recreational teams for children age 18 mos – 18 years and Classic teams for U11 and older. Cost is $110-$120 and includes uniform and park fees. Games are played at Burns Park in North Little Rock. Season runs March to May.
Arkansas Rush Soccer Club
Offers recreational level from under 4 to under 18, Youth Academy (in Conway and Jonesboro) for U9-U12, competitive soccer in Conway and Jonesboro, with tryouts, for U11-U18, U13-U18 developmental soccer and U15-U18 scholastic soccer during the spring season.
Bryant Soccer Club
Offers recreational teams from U6 (starting at age 4) to ages 12 and up,
and Classic teams from U11-U18. Cost is $75-$265 depending on age and level. Other expenses may include tournament fees. Games are at Midland or
Cabot Soccer Association
Lakewood Futbol Association
Registration deadline is late January, with season starting in late February. Cost ranges from $90 for ages 6 and up. Cost
for ages 4-5 is $80 for non-POA members.
Little Rock Futbol Club
Offers recreational, Academy for U7-U10, and the most competitive Classic level, with 22 teams U11-U18. Costs for recreational league is $100, including uniform. Academy registration is $225 per 12-week season of more intensive skills training (3 hours per week) and games. Classic level will have tryouts. Cost for Classic level can range from $650-$950 per year (full and partial scholarships are available from club).
Maumelle Soccer Club
952-4193 or 837-0150
Recreational and classic levels are available for all youth ages, along with skills training. Registration fee starts at $110 and depends on age level. All soccer fields are in Rolling Oaks Sports Complex.
Mighty Bluebirds Soccer
Competitive Classic and recreational soccer for boys and girls U10-U18 and
a coed U-8 rec team, played on fields
on Pinnacle Valley Road. Cost per season is $600.
Sherwood Soccer Club
Offers recreational programs for ages U4 to U18 for boys, girls and coed teams. Fees are $80 for Sherwood residents and $85 for non-Sherwood residents.
Westside Futbol Association
Offers competitive Classic level from U11 to U16, as well as recreational soccer for U5 to U18 and “Grass Kickers” under 4 program. Free Academy training for all U9-U12 players, conducted by a professional staff, and free Skills & Drills training, coached by former and current college players, also is offered. League registration fees vary by age group.