For about eight months out of the year, boys and girls can be seen practicing or playing games on the soccer fields along South County Road 25E in Brownstown.
The Brownstown Youth Soccer League’s first season was in the fall of 2015 and consisted of about 40 kids and six teams — U6 and U8. There were only two small fields at that time.
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This past spring, nearly 100 boys and girls were on 11 teams — U6, U8, U10 and U12. For the first time, there was a girls-only U10 team. And now, there are five fields.
The league consists of all recreational teams. The U10 and U12 squads play in the Sunnyside League, where they have the opportunity to play against teams from Clark, Harrison, Washington, Scott and Floyd counties.
Travis Norman, league director and coach of the U10 boys team, said it has been great to see the growth of soccer in Brownstown.
“I think it’s just word of mouth, and it’s something different,” he said. “Brownstown never had soccer, so it gives kids a different option, something to play. We’re not trying to compete with (another sport). Whatever numbers we get is what we have, and we make it work.”
The fall season runs from August to November, and the spring season goes from March to early June. Most games are Saturdays and Sundays, but there are occasional weekday games. The two younger divisions average eight games per season, while the older divisions average 14. Practices are two or three times a week.
Since the league’s inception, Norman said there have been some kids with soccer experience, but a lot have been new to the sport.
“The younger kids — U6 and U8 — those kids played at Seymour, and then since we got local, they came here and played,” he said. “When we started, I thought we had kids that never played, but come to find out, we had some that came from Seymour because they lived here in Brownstown.”
Those kids have been able to help the newcomers a lot, he said.
“I’ve always told my kids, ‘You need to watch it. You learn from watching,’” Norman said. “It’s like any sport. I said, ‘If you see soccer on TV, stop and just watch how they play their position because soccer is a lot about just playing your position. If you don’t play your position, you’re going to run yourself to death.’
“That’s where my older kids struggle because they’ve all played basketball, baseball,” he said. “They never played soccer, so they just think of it as a free-for-all sometimes, so we’re all really working on that.”
Brothers Camdyn Nierman, 6, and Brayton Nierman, 8, were on Norman’s team this spring.
Camdyn said he played the sport for the first time last year. Then when Brayton saw him playing, he decided to try it, too.
Camdyn said being on a team with his brother and friends and kicking the ball make the sport fun.
Since he started playing soccer, Brayton said he has improved because his coaches help him in drills.
“I can kick better because I used to be able to just kick far and I couldn’t kick short,” he said.
Running, competing and making goals are Brayton’s favorite things about soccer. There’s one other attraction to the game.
“You can win,” he said, smiling.
Until this spring, all of Brownstown’s teams were coed. Norman said it was good to have enough girls at U10 to have a team just for them.
They were coached by Alyssa Vieck and Amy Underwood, both of whom played soccer in college and had helped coach other Brownstown teams.
The team had girls with soccer experience and others who were new to the game, and the coaches saw a lot of improvement from everyone.
“If they love it, then they are willing to work hard and then bring it to a game,” Vieck said.
The coaches agreed the league has been a great addition to Brownstown, and they have liked being able to get their own children involved.
“Both (Underwood) and I grew up playing soccer and then played in college, so whenever I moved here (from Washington), I was sad that Brownstown didn’t have soccer, and I thought, ‘Are my kids not going to grow up and play the sport that I love?’ It just blossomed,” Vieck said.
“Both of my kids play — one on U10 and one on U12 — so it’s just fun to see them,” Underwood said. “I grew up and played the game, played in college, and it’s just exciting to see them play my sport, as well. It’s just awesome to have that experience for kids in Brownstown, to have another sport to play and to learn.”
Claire Brock, 8, and Haley Wheeler, 10, both played on the first U10 girls team. Each of them had played in the league before.
“When I first played, I thought it was fun, so I guess I just wanted to play again and again and again,” Claire said.
“I watched soccer on TV sometimes, and it looked pretty fun, so I wanted to try it out, and I saw that they were having a Brownstown league,” Haley said.
They had a good time playing on the girls-only team.
“I like kicking and having fun with my friends on the team,” Claire said. “We pass with each other, and we do stuff with each other.”
Haley said it took awhile for the team to claim its first win, but she was glad to see everyone stick together.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “We worked on spreading out, and I think we got better on that.”
Both girls said they have improved a lot in their game, and they hope to see others play soccer, too.
“I listened to my coaches, and they taught me everything I know,” Claire said. “With good coaches, we can tell people we learn, and we can tell people about how to play soccer.”
The league is open to boys and girls up to age 13 at this point, but Norman said he hopes to get enough for a U14 team so kids can keep playing. The Sunnyside League goes all the way up to U19.
Some other soccer leagues offer travel teams, but Norman said for now, Brownstown is going to remain a recreational league.
“At this point, it’s so new to Brownstown, I think we’re just going to work on fundamentals and skills to get the kids better,” he said. “Maybe the younger kids that are coming up, we can develop them and get them where they need to be. I’m not saying our U10 and U12 kids don’t have that, but they just need to develop skills where the other kids on the teams we’re playing are ahead of us.”
Norman said he expects the league to continue to grow, but he’s not concerned about having a certain amount of kids involved.
“Numbers don’t really matter to us,” he said. “As long as the kids have fun and they are learning something, that’s kind of what we’re all about. We’re just trying to develop these kids.”
Vieck said she hopes the current players stay involved and encourage others to give it a try.
“I think our goal is just to keep the same kids coming back every year and make sure it’s fun and it’s something they want to do,” Vieck said. “That means a lot. If the same kids come back, that means we’re doing something right.”
Brownstown Youth Soccer League
Season: 9 wins, 1 loss and 3 ties
MVP: Brayton Nierman
Best offense: Eli Waskom
Most aggressive: Camdyn Nierman
Most improved: Harlan Feathers
Sportsmanship: Landon McCormick
Mental attitude: Sloan Stuckwisch
Season: Finished in the top four of the Sunnyside Cup
MVP: Brady Blann
Best offense: Cooper Wolka
Best defense: Cole Brelage and Logan Norman
Most aggressive: Colin Fisher
Most improved: Eamon Shaw
Sportsmanship: Connor Nichols
Mental attitude: Elix Preston
MVP: Clair Stidham
Best offense: Mairi Shaw
Best defense: Maddy Sprengel
Most aggressive: Claire Brock
Most improved: Avery Wilson
Sportsmanship: Teighan Wolka
Mental attitude: Mattie Nowland
For information, search for Brownstown Youth Soccer League on Facebook.