Optimist league grows to 42 teams

Published 6:30 pm Monday, August 13, 2007

By By PETER WILLIAMS, Staff Writer
The number of teams in the fall Washington Optimist Club soccer league is expected to swell from 33 teams to 42 this year.
Part of the reason is more children are signing up, says Patty Peebles, the coordinator of the league. The other is the youngest division is being divided up to make sure kids have more chance to play.
More than 400 children have signed up so far, and tryouts are set for Monday at the Susiegray McConnell Sports Complex on Market Street Extension. Players age 7-8 try out starting at 5:30 p.m. The 9-10-year-olds report at 6 p.m. and the 11-15-year-olds compete at 6:30 p.m.
The league once supported more than 500 players, but competition from other sports drained some of the talent away, Pebbles said. Several years ago the schedule was moved from the spring to the fall to lessen the conflict, and that has allowed the league to rebuild some of the numbers.
The impact of a fall baseball league has yet to been seen, but Pebbles said her phone Friday was busy with calls from people who hadn’t signed up their child yet.
Players don’t have to be a resident of Washington to play. That didn’t use to be the rule when the city ran the program, Pebbles said. They had to be a customer of Washington Utilities to be eligible. Now the league has a few players from Pitt County, Williamston as well as Belhaven and Aurora. The league tries where possible to put players from the same geographic area on the same team so they can car pool, Pebbles said.
The city still gets it’s cut. It costs $40 to be a member of the team, but the City of Washington gets $25 of that to maintain the field. League sponsors make up the difference to pay for referees, uniforms and other expenses. The “other expenses” this year includes $1,000 to get referees certified. The budget includes $5,000 to pay for referees this season.
So far 151 players have signed up for the 4-5-6-year-old league. There are 101 in the 7-8-year-old division. Another 47 are registered among 9-10 year-olds, 47 in the 11-and-12-year-olds and 46 in the 13-15-year olds. There used to be a league for 16-18 year-olds, but interested has waned. That doesn’t mean teams couldn’t be formed if the interest is shown, Peebles said.
“We still need coaches for 5-year-olds, the 9-10 year-olds and the 13-15 year-olds,” Pebbles said. “Also, anyone with soccer cleats that they have outgrown may be brought to the soccer complex at 5:30 p.m. Monday for others to use. All ages will be allowed to wear soccer cleats this year.”
Practice is slated to start Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. and the season starts Sept. 8.
For more information, call 402-0200.