Optimist soccer returns under new leadership
The Niles Optimist youth soccer league will open the season next month with several changes organizers say are designed to create a better experience for everyone involved.
Last year, the season was canceled early for two teams after a heated argument over officiating broke out between parents, coaches and the people in charge of enforcing the rules at games (administrators).
Denise Peters, President of the Niles Noon Optimist Club, runs the soccer program, said that there have been a variety of organizational changes.
Peters said the soccer program is now under the administration of a 10-person soccer committee, rather than just a few people.
Also, an Optimist representative, she said, would be present at every game to make sure everything runs smoothly and to address any issues that might come up.
“They will be able to be clearly identified,” she said. “They are there to have a presence and to keep everything optimistic, which is what we are all about.”
Coaches and referees are also required to sign an agreement to uphold the Optimist mission of fostering an optimistic way of life.
“The Optimists are all about bringing positivity and programs to youth that build character and community,” Peters said. “We want to make sure we bring it back to that.”
Also new this year, Niles Optimist soccer has renewed its partnership with the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, which will help support the program.
Peters said participating in Optimist soccer provides an opportunity for children to be active while gaining valuable life lessons.
“They learn team camaraderie, responsibility and respect for others — all the life skills that sports can teach,” she said.
Approximately 360 children participated in the league last year.
The soccer league is for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Teams are divided based on grade level into five divisions: kindergarten, first/second, third/fourth, fifth/sixth and sevent/eighth.
The practice season begins in the middle of March with the first games starting after spring break.
Each team averages approximately nine games played in Niles, Buchanan and Cassopolis.
The season ends before Memorial Day.
The deadline to register for Optimist soccer is Feb. 29. Cost is $40 for a player and $25 for any additional player of the same family.
There is a $10 late fee added to the cost for people who register after Feb. 21.
People can register online at optimistsoccerleague.com or at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, Niles District Library or Greater Niles Federal Credit Union.
The league also has openings for volunteer coaches and paid referees.
For questions, call Peters or Sammee Schaller at the YMCA at (269) 683-1552.
Founded in 1970, the Niles Noon Optimist Club has helped thousands of local children through a variety of initiatives.