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Oct. 14, 2016

 

IPS Developmental Soccer League  
 
 
 
Grass
stains, orange slices and Charlie Brown-style missed kicks are all part of the
youth soccer experience. IPS elementary students as young as kindergarten are
experiencing these moments, many for the first time, through the IPS Developmental
Soccer League.

 

This is the
first season soccer has been offered to this district’s youngest students. Previously,
students had to be in Grades 4-6 to participate.IPS Developmental Soccer League

 

The expansion
has led to record participation numbers, with 71 teams and more than 1,200
students engaging in the joys that youth sports has to offer. It also marks the
first of many changes the IPS District Athletics Department is implementing to increase
athletics and extracurricular participation throughout the district.

 

“There are
leagues for younger students to participate in outside of the district, but we
know that a lot of our families aren’t in a position to take advantage of these
programs,” said IPS Assistant District Athletic Director Darren Thomas. “There
are so many lessons and skills to be learned from athletics participation, and we
need our students to be able to have those opportunities as well. We’re working
hard to provide that from the district level.”

 

The IPS Developmental
Soccer League, facilitated in partnership with Indy Youth Sports, is divided
into three coed divisions to allow kids to compete with their age groups.

 

The youngest
boys and girls compete in the kindergarten through first-grade division, which is
designed to get students active and engaged while learning the basic rules of
the game. With no goalies in this division, all of the players on the field
chase the ball with the haphazard enthusiasm that can only be found in youngsters
this age.

 

The second-
through third-grade division features a bit more structure as positions and
strategies become better established. Most of the students in the two younger
age groups are playing in an organized sports league for the very first time
and are learning the importance of teamwork and practice. The level of competition
significantly increases in the fourth- through sixth-grade division, where more
of the emotional highs and lows of the game manifest.

 

Another
change made in the district’s youth soccer program are the locations of the
matches. This season’s matches all take place at one of two IPS locations,
resourcing some of the districts vast field space that was previously
neglected.

 

Thanks to
the district’s facilities paint crew, seven fields have been striped on George H. Fisher School 93’s grounds and 10 fields are now established on the
yard of Jonathan Jennings School 109 and the attached green space, which
is provided by IndyParks. IPS Athletics has partnered with the local Indy
Eleven soccer team to help provide goals for all 17 fields.

 

Once a week,
up to 20 teams play at one location simultaneously. With family and friends in
attendance, a true IPS community environment has been created as they encourage
— from the sidelines — the young student athletes to play their best. They also
lift their spirits when they fall short. In order to add to the community
spirit, IPS Athletics has provided socks and reversible jerseys for all
players.

 

Emily Drake,
athletic coordinator at Stephen Foster School 67, has put together teams at her
school to participate in the league.

 

“I have had
many pleased parents and coaches who truly enjoy having all of the games in one
central location on one night,” said Drake. “It’s also really great seeing so
many different age groups playing. It really seems like a community coming
together.” 

 

Players
aren’t the only ones in the league who are getting a new experience. With an
increase in the number of participating students came an equally increased need
for more coaches. Many IPS staff members happily answered the call, with some
coaching for the first time.

 

Some of the
league’s coaches are also parents or community members who simply have a
passion for giving back and have found a way to do so through teaching IPS
students how to play soccer. But their responsiblites go ever futher. Many also
tutor students, feed them before buses arrive, and have become mentors and positive
role models.

 

Coaches also
officiate the matches for the two younger divisions, creating teaching moments
throughout each match as the little ones get the hang of throw-ins and corner
kicks. Hired officials step in at the fourth- through sixth-grade division as
students prepare for the more intense junior-high level.

 

IPS
Athletics will offer the fast-growing, indoor soccer-based sport, futsal, as an
option for elementary students who want to continue playing during the winter
season, along with basketball and cheer.

 

The IPS Developmental
Soccer League may run again in the spring with volleyball. Also in the spring,
baseball, softball and tee-ball will be introduced to the district at the
elementary level for the first time.

 

With
continued growth through league expansions and partnerships, IPS elementary
families can look forward to additional athletics opportunities to become
available in the near future.