ESA breaks seal on regular-season play

By Jon Clark

   This past Saturday, with the hectic pace of the jamboree a memory, regular-season play settled in for the Elizabethton Soccer Association.
   The fields, still brown and dusty from drought, hosted hundreds of players eager to exercise their ballhandling prowess and athletic abilities.
   Soccer moms (and dads, and grandparents, and sisters and brothers) gathered on the sidelines to cheer their teams.
   Play for the young teams (under six-U6) doesn't resemble soccer, but rather herds of children clad in two different colors, feet swinging in the air.
   An occasional ball might escape from the children's twitching feet, but the herd quickly catches up to it and the ball once again disappears within the greedy feet of the children. Cheers from proud parents are often drowned out by their laughter as players fall, trip, stumble and collide.
   U8 soccer (players under eight) resembles the U6 play at times but the ball escapes the herd more often. Many of the children have learned basic ballhandling skills such as dribbling, passing and shooting, and their game resembles what adults think of as soccer.
   The U10 players often have good ballhandling skills and the players have a much better understanding of the game. Athletic abilities and strength are growing; the speed of players has increased, making the play more intense and competitive. There is a wide array of ability and skill, with many of the players having soccer experience.
   U12 soccer is the oldest age bracket played at Doe River Gorge. Many of these players have been kicking a soccer ball around for years, and their skills are quite good. Some have professional coaching.
   Herd playing (the players all chasing the ball around as one group) has been replaced by passing, dribbling and team play. Players understand their positions and some strategy may be used, and jubilant cheers reward competent play.
   Next time the focus will be on the U15 and U16 teams and will feature interviews with the team's coaches.