Soccerfest Thrives Despite Weather; Donations to “Cleats For Kids” Accepted

March 26, 2014


© 2007 All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of The Grand Rapids Press  by the Gale Group, Inc.
Byline: Joey Nowak / The Grand Rapids Press

Saturday’s Holland weather was not fit for a picnic, but ask the participants at the 11th annual Lakeshore Soccerfest and there was no question – the show had to go on.   Thousands of players, coaches and fans braved the not-so-perfect Memorial day weekend weather and drudged through misty and cool temperatures at Macatawa Bay Middle School and West Ottawa High School.   Fifteen champions were crowned at the event that featured more than 150 teams from across the Midwest.

“I literally got one hour of sleep last night,” Gretchen Starr, the parent volunteer tournament registrar, said.

Starr was in charge of player and team registration and check-in.   For most of Saturday, the temperatures ranged in the mid-60s and the rain held off until around 4 p.m.   Barry Hutzel, who supervised the “field marshals” for all the games, said the Saturday morning rain made the fields a bit slick, but didn’t cause too many problems.   For Leroy Bayne, juggling games between his stepson and stepdaughter playing at both locations, the cool weather was a nice change.

“Yesterday, I got burnt,” he said on Saturday. “Although it was not that warm, it was kind of sunny. So it’s nice to cover up some of that burn.” Chloe Myers, from the U-14 Marshall Hurricanes, joked about the advantages of playing in the rain.  “You can slide-tackle people and not look so conspicuous,” she said.   Of the 19 fields that saw game action, 14 of them were at the middle school and were used by divisions U-9 to U-12 boys and girls. The divisions of U-13 and older played on the five fields at the high school.

In his six years involved with the tournament, Hutzel has seen it grow.   “This is a great weekend to be doing this,” he said. “Two years ago, we used to have this in July. We moved to this slot because we got an opening and we took it and we’ve gone from 75 teams to 148.”   At all the locations, tournament participants could donate used soccer apparel to the Warmones Women’s Soccer club, which re-distributes gently used equipment to teams and individuals in need.  The group, which has a board of seven Holland women, has been together for about seven years and does the work through its “Cleats For Kids” program.   “We decided, because a lot of us played soccer, as we all had children growing up and growing out their soccer shoes, we decided to start a collect and share soccer program,” board member Amy Bade said. “What that involves is collecting youth soccer shoes, cleats, shin guards, balls and old uniforms.”

This was the second year the Warmones joined with Soccerfest and Bade said it has been their most successful venue to collect.   “We’re just sort of drawn to the idea of helping kids become active,” she said.

“When all these kids are out there playing soccer and you’re in tennis shoes, it’s not a lot of equipment you need for soccer, but cleats can make a difference.”   And she added that the rewards of the program have been “heartwarming.”

“When kids put these shoes on and don’t want to take them off – they want to wear them to church,” she laughed.