Youth soccer league celebrates end of successful, unconventional season

Jul 24, 2021

The typical sights of drills and competition at the Dartmouth Youth Soccer Association’s practice field were instead filled with sack races, water balloon fights and an inflatable obstacle course to celebrate the end of the association’s pandemic-era season.

Jenn Reid, a DYSA board member and mother to a couple of soccer players, said she was thrilled when it was decided that a big, yet safe, celebration could happen on July 23.

“This is great,” she said. “I’m surprised to see this many kids on a Friday.”

Julia Franzese, 8, said she especially enjoyed racing through the obstacle course.

“I fell face-first down the slide and had a wicked bad rug burn,” she said. “It was fun!”

Players and coaches were also recognized for their accomplishments and services during the Covid-era soccer seasons.

Dennis Leary, the association’s spring coordinator and director of its Dartmouth FC program, noted that this was the first such event hosted on the fields. 

He said that the idea came about after the pandemic ended the typical “season ending jamboree” game for the micro teams — players aged 4 to 7.

“Since that didn’t transpire, we figured we’d have a season ending event here,” he said.

DYSA President Bob Long said that the celebration shows just how much things have changed since the uncertainty ahead of last fall’s season. 

Just over a year ago, he noted that the association’s fields were strictly limited to spaced out drills, with no ability to scrimmage even amongst teammates.

“We weren’t really playing any games,” Long said.

To get ready for any form of fall play, Leary said that Long and the association’s Covid Officer Laura Zexter did “a lot of work to make this place Covid friendly.”

New rules included limiting the number of people at sessions to 25 participants and 50 spectators per field, with just one parent or guardian allowed per player. Games were allowed, but tournaments remained canceled.

As vaccinations went up, rules continued to loosen. Three weeks into the spring season, the final Covid restriction was dropped: the mask mandate.

“It was a lot better,” Kendra Santiago, 14, said about being able to play maskless again.

Long said that despite the constantly changing rules, “the kids did great” adapting to it all.

“They would have played with cement shoes if that’s what it took to play,” he said. 

That adaptability paid off, as Dartmouth fielded the most teams of any community at the state championship tournament last month— with eight squads represented. 

Dartmouth FC won eight South Coast Soccer League Championships this spring, earning them the invitation to represent the league at the state level. 

Two teams, Grade 12+ Girls and the Grade 9-11 Girls Division 1 teams, ended up winning it all.

“We had the best showing out of all the towns in the South Coast,” Leary noted.

Moving forward, Long said he expects things to be “fully speed ahead” with no more Covid restrictions.

“It looks like things will be normal,” he said. “It was a great spring for the DYSA, now onto the fall.”