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21 September 2007
City PARD Athletic Director Recruits
JSU Athletes as Officials and
Kappa Sigma Fraternity Members as Coaches

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

‘Frogtown’ Fields Open for Season

A few of the 9,077 students come out of class at the Stone Center. Photo: Anita Kilgore

As game time approached on Sept. 10, workers for the city of Jacksonville were still scrambling to get every detail in place. After all, it wasn’t just the first day of a new season; it was the first day on the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation department’s new soccer fields.

“At the end of last week, we started moving some things into the building,” said Jamie Champion, athletic director for Jacksonville PARD. “We were getting everything ready to go until probably hours before game time.”

Those who have visited the field or seen the team uniforms this year may wonder about the amphibians found almost as a logo on everything. Jacksonville PARD is playing off a nickname for the area of town, “Frogtown.”

The new soccer fields are technically three fields. One large enough for the 11 & under and 13 & under teams, another sized for the 9 & under teams and a third split into three parts for the 7 & under teams.

That Monday marked the first time Jacksonville’ youth soccer teams had regulation-size fields to work on, a benefit especially when it comes time for all-stars.

“The fields where we played before are not regulation size and at the end of the year when they pick all-star teams and we would go to Anniston to play, our children were not used to playing on such a big field,” said Eric Wilson, who has coached youth soccer teams in Jacksonville for the last four years.

The children are still getting used to the additional room. Wilson said his teams have been worn out at the end of each game so far, but he knows they will build their endurance through the season and be ready to run at all-star time.

With five available fields, Jacksonville PARD can fit more games into each night, and having them all at one location is a relief for parents.

“Last year we had one child playing at Germania Springs and one child playing at Henry Farm and sometimes they were playing at the same time,” said Wilson.

The new pavilion, a source of contention for the city council when they approved the plans for the field, has already been put to use as a shelter during rainy games.

“The first two nights we played it rained,” said Wilson. “The second night we played it rained the entire second game. Of course, we were out in it, but a lot of the parents watch the games from underneath the pavilion.”

If the officials calling the players for handballs and being offside look familiar, they are all members of Jacksonville State University’s softball team.

“They’re off-season, most of them played in high school and we’ve had problems the last two or three years obtaining soccer officials,” said Champion. “It’s just worked out to where their workouts and practices are done in time to get over here.”

Champion likes working with JSU as often as possible and this year is adding another way to use the university – for coaches.

The Kappa Sigma fraternity is coaching one of the 13 & under teams as part of their community service hours.

Each member of the fraternity has to accumulate 75 hours of community service. The soccer teams is the groups first official service project of the year, but members who don’t have the time or ability to coach soccer are encouraged to find other volunteer opportunities.

Brett Socha, the fraternity’s president, chose soccer because of his long history with the sport.

“I grew up playing it when I was in high school,” said the Albertville native. “It’s just always been something I’ve wanted to do.”

His assistant coach, Drew Smythe chose to help because he hopes to be a coach someday. A freshman at JSU, he still has plenty of time to decide which sport he wants to focus on most and whether or not coaching is right for him and hopes this experience will help with some of those decisions.

“I’m going to try to coach in high school and if I have a background in this, maybe I can coach soccer,” said Smythe.

Jacksonville PARD isn’t finished with the field yet. There are plans for permanent signs marking the individual fields and a new set of goals for the 13 & under field. All the others have new goals.

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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