By VINCE PELUSO
Much like the sport of soccer over the last few decades, the Ashtabula Soccer Association has seen an exponential growth in participation in recent years.
In 2013, 467 boys and girls gathered at Edgewood high school to play on nine different fields over six weeks to participate in a total of 216 games.
This year, first-year ASA president Nathan Summers, expects that number to grow to more than 500 participants.
The league, comprised of players from Ashtabula, Conneaut, Jefferson, North Kingsville, Pierport and Saybrook area, is all about the kids and that’s the reason Summers is involved.
“I got into ASA for my children, like a lot of parents do,” he said. “I was actually involved in other organizations, but I didn’t like how they were being coached and didn’t understand some things, so I had questions and started to do some research and found ASA.
“It’s very beneficial for the youth of area as far as teaching sportsmanship and the fundamentals of soccer.”
With a league that has the number of participants that ASA does, Summers said community involvement is an important part of what keeps the league running.
“Any time you can get community involvement, whether it’s from businesses or parents getting involved with their children, it’s beneficial,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people understand how much work it is to keep the league running. We have some dedicated people to get it running and every little bit helps out.”
Some of those duties include coaching, field matienence and scheduling, not to mention the expenses involved.
Because ASA is a non-profit organization, donations are important.
“(Donations) are very important because we’re non-profit, we’re here for the community,” he said. “So community involvement from sponsors is good for everyone. It’s beneficial for us to get more equipment for the kids, better stuff like balls. Last year, it was exciting (the support ASA received). I think when people step up and come together it just feels good for everyone.
“Some of our expenses include insurance, we pay our referees, too. There’s also field matenience. Just generally, I don’t think a lot of people think about all that is involved. It’s quite a lot.”
Summer said there are plenty of positives about ASA.
One of the benefits of the league is that all its games are contested at one site — Edgewood high school.
For someone like Summers, who has three children — Ethan (13), Ian (11) and Catalina (8) — competing in three different divisions, this is a big benefit.
“We’re extremely grateful for where we’re at with Buckeye (school district) and having all the divisions in one spot,” he said. “Just for me, I have three kids in three divisions and there are times where there’s multiple games going on at once so I just make a loop and walk from one end of Edgewood to the other and stay for 10 minutes at a time.
“We’re really grateful for where we’re act because we don’t have to find rides or miss games. It’s a really nice situation.”
Summers said that ASA tries to make its schedule family friendly, as they play Monday through Thursday evenings so parents can come watch when they’re off work and it also leaves weekends free.
Another goal of the league is to promotes the sport and to grow a soccer community in the area.
“We definitely want to create awareness of soccer and inspire kids to play it,” he said. “Studies show it’s good to get your kids involved with athletics at an early age and for us (Summers family) we enjoy soccer so it’s perfect.
“I think it’s pretty exciting my kids (who are in the Lakeside school district) get to meet kids from other schools, too. So when they go to functions they’re familiar with others and that just makes the community bigger and better. I think that’s (what makes ASA) kind of unique.”
While the league continues to grow, Summers said there is no cap on how big it can get and they’re ready to keep expanding.
“We always have room for growth, it’s really exciting,” he said. “We’re here for the kids. (Soccer) is a great sport for people to get involved in and learn so there’s always room for more. With more people we need more help but it’s pretty exciting to watch it growth.”
Summers said the league appreciates the support it has received and hopes to get even more.
“We really appreciate all the help we’ve been getting,” he said. “This is a great league. We’re non-competitive, we’re there for the awareness of the sport and team participation. It’s really a great place for kids to try out the sport and get their start. There’s no pressure, it’s fun.”
Those interesting in donating to ASA can send checks payable to Ashtabula Soccer Association to ASA, P.O. Box 13, Ashtabula, 44005.
The league has three tiers of sponsorship — Bronze (up to $99), Silver ($100-$199) and Gold ($200 and up). A silver sponsorship will get a business name/logo printed on players’ schedules and a web link for your business on the ASA website. A gold sponsorship includes the benefits of a silver sponsorship as well as a team sponsor with company/business name on team jerseys. The deadline for sponsorship is April 25.
For information about ASA, visit www.ashtabulasoccer.com.