The first games of the season are on Aug. 14.
Josh Anderson’s office, tucked in the corner of the second floor of Port Orange Parks and Recreation, is decorated with a plethora of items: old newspaper articles, sports equipment, game schedules and so on.
But framed prominently on a wall next to his desk is a worn out soccer jersey and a pair of gloves.
Before Anderson became the athletic supervisor for the city five years ago, he was a goalie for four years at Indiana Tech. Although he loves all sports, soccer is a game near and dear to his heart.
Over the past few weeks, the children and parents of Port Orange have been gearing up for the start of the city’s youth soccer league, with practice starting on July 23.
Anderson, who has played soccer since he was 3 years old, said he benefited from playing in similar programs.
“The development that you build, not just physically but mentally, is huge,” he said. “And the social skills, the problem solving skills that the kids are learning, and motor skills for the younger age groups, is great. It’s a great place to meet friends. I’ve made a lot of friends through this, a lot of memories.
“It’s a great environment to bring people together.”
The age groups include U6 (starting at 4 years old), U8 and U10, which are all co-ed, and U14 boys and U14 girls. There are 41 teams in the league, featuring more than 450 kids. Anderson said the number of participants has been consistent over the past three years. However, the camp saw an increase of about 100 kids from years ago.
Anderson said the rise in participation was mostly likely due to lowering the age cutoff to 4 years old. The previous cutoff was 5.
Practices are twice per week at the City Center fields and at Coraci Park. The first games of the season are on Aug. 14. There will be two games per week for five weeks. The U8 and U14 teams will have a single game elimination tournament following the end of the regular season. The U6 group will play 10 random matches without keeping score.
“It’s more about fun and development for the younger kids,” Anderson said.
Ymani Bain is a coach for the Stallions, a U8 team. And although it’s her third season coaching, it’s her first season coaching in Port Orange. She coached in South Daytona the past two years.
“I love coaching,” said Bain, whose 6-year-old daughter Sophia is also in the league. “By the end of the season, when you see everyone’s improvement, that’s the best part.”