Small soccer clubs face myriad issues, ranging from numbers, field availability (or quality) and lack of funding. Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer started its Development Grant program in 2014 to help make up for these shortfalls. The grants are intended to help clubs with facility and field improvements.
For Interboro Soccer Club—which is based in the Delaware County communities of Glenolden, Norwood, Prospect Park and Tinicum Township—its tight geography put a premium on field time. Without the ability to play at night, Interboro's 10 travel teams (up from seven in 2015-16) shared practices in limited hours.
Now, thanks to a 2016 Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Dvelopment Grant, the club can properly support all of its teams. On Tuesday evening, Interboro turned on the lights at Norwood Park for the first time. An under-9 girls game between the hosts and Lower Merion Soccer Club marked the inaugural night game. Interboro celebrated the occasion with a pre-game ceremony at midfield with club Director of Soccer John Sykes, Registrar Patty Butler and Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer CEO Chris Branscome.
"In the past, we had to really limit how much time each team could have, especially for the older teams. So now the older teams, we can keep the lights on until 10 o’clock," said Sykes. "And our club’s expanding. Last year we had seven travel teams. This year we have 10. Our intramurals are growing. With more kids, you need more space. It’s been a real need. Without Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, we would have had to figure out how to raise money. We’re such a small club, this kind of money just doesn’t grow on trees."
The flood lights covered the entirety of the Norwood Park soccer fields, which includes a previously dimly-lit area next to woods. Moreover, small-side games used to be played behind the baseball diamond across the parking lot from the soccer fields. With any rain, the pitch became swampy and infested with mosquitoes. Players and coaches are happy to move under the lights for that reason alone.
Still, community remains at the heart of the development. Interboro works hard to keep its families in sports.
"It means a great deal, not only to Inteboro, our club, but also to our community," said Interboro Soccer Club board member Jen Bush. "By strengthening the club, you’re also strengthening the community. So quite literally and figuratively, you’re shedding light on soccer kids and their community. It really allows us to build our soccer program. We can practice at night. We can host games. It just really allows us to build kids, soccer and community."
For more information on Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer's Development Grant Program, head here.