The Rye Sweepers' Sydney Szabo and Pelham Panthers' Anna Rose Comerford battle for the ball as they participate in the Last Licks Rye Brook Youth Soccer Kickoff Classic yesterday at Blind Brook High School. (Matthew Brown/The Journal News)
Youth soccer: Rye Brook is place for kids
By Anthony Tripicchio • The Journal News • March 29, 2009
RYE BROOK - Grins on the faces of soccer players were beaming as brightly as the sun at the Last Licks Rye Brook Youth Soccer Kickoff Classic yesterday.
In the two-day weekend event that continues today, Rye Brook Youth Soccer is hosting 100 teams and more than 1,500 players ranging in age from 9 to 15 at Blind Brook High School. Teams play four games of 25 minutes each on the school's five synthetic-turf fields.
Rip Fisher, president of the Westchester Youth Soccer League, said the players participating are having a blast.
"Every kid here is smiling," Fisher said.
Organized by tournament directors Jeff Silverman and Ken Finder, the event has grown significantly in its third year of existence.
"We want to make it a memorable experience for the kids," Silverman said. "We sold out the event in two days and had a waitlist of 75 teams."
Finder says Silverman deserves much of the credit.
"Jeff is the brainchild of the event," Finder said. "I put in a lot of time, but however many hours I put in, he puts in 100 hours more."
The Rye Brook Blue Blaze won second place in the girls U14 division with a 2-1-1 record.
Ally Silfen, a Blue Blaze team member, spoke about the benefits of the tournament.
"Besides giving us motivation to get better, it shows us what skills we need to work on," Silfen said. "And it gives us fresh air."
"It's a preview of how we'll do this season," teammate Abby Sax said.
Coach Frank Encalada of the first-place Munay Sparks (girls U14 division) has registered his team each year since the tournament's beginning.
"This is a great tournament," Encalada, an Ossining resident, said. "I like the turf because you don't get the funny bounce. On hot days, (the turf) absorbs the sun and it's a downside, but right now it's perfect."
Sponsored by Steiner Sports, the event also featured a public autograph signing by USA women's soccer team member Heather O'Reilly.
"There must have been about 400 to 500 kids getting autographs," Fisher said. "It's inspiring for them to meet an Olympic gold medalist."
Tournament directors were at the fields at 5:30 a.m. preparing for the day's games. A team of 130 adult volunteers was on hand over the course of the day.
"We go the extra mile to make it a great event with the awards ceremony and electronic scoreboards," Silverman said. "The complex is amazing."
Pete Kay, a trainer with Major League Soccer's Red Bulls, ran skills clinics for players in the morning.
"This year the numbers are big and its well-structured," Kay said. "There's a lot of kids enjoying themselves."