ROYSA Challenge Cup Celebrates 2011 Season
With their names announced on the public address system as they took the field at Royal Oak High School, some of the city’s best young soccer players gathered Wednesday evening to participate in the first ROYSA Challenge Cup.
Kevin Russ, president of the Royal Oak Youth Soccer Association, said the organization, which has been around for more than 35 years, had held all-star games on a smaller scale, but he wanted to try something different. “We did an all-star game about eight years ago, and it was only one game and one division,” Russ said. “This year, we’ve kind of taken it to the next level. It’s four games, four divisions and we’re having it here at the stadium.”
For the players from the U9-U12 divisions chosen to participate, the Challenge Cup offered an opportunity to play in an atmosphere they had never experienced. The kids were “without a doubt” excited to have the chance to play in the football stadium, Russ said.
“When they were out here for practice the other day, the eyes were wide,” Russ said. “When they were introduced from underneath the bleachers, and walking out with the crowd and the announcer, it was pretty cool. One of the reasons why we wanted to do it out here was to make it a big deal for the kids.”
ROYSA public relations director Rick Saro said he hopes the Challenge Cup will continue to evolve.
“This is something that we wanted to get growing, more formal and continue every year doing it,” Saro said. “My own daughter is involved, and to see the excitement on (the kids’) faces, it’s just priceless.
“It’s one of the things that we’ll build on every year and try to improve it and get some more people out to make a big event out of it.”
Challenge Cup participants were selected by their peers; coaches were selected by their division managers and the kids were picked by either their teammates or coaches.
Steve Burt was selected to coach the U9/U10 coed Red Team, dubbed The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Burt’s son Ethan, who will be a fifth-grader at Shrine Grade School in the fall, was also selected to appear in the game.
“It was an awesome honor,” Burt said. “It was quite the honor by our program mangers to select the coaches, and then a lot of the teams selected the players. It’s really cool that these kids are representations of their own teams.”
While the games were competitive, Russ said it was more about having fun than winning. “It’s just a fun competition; we’re looking for a winner, but it’s definitely for fun,” he said. “This is more about a celebration of the soccer season for us.”
As part of the celebration, Russ and Saro brought in an instrument familiar to soccer fans who watched the 2010 World Cup in South Africa: the vuvuzela.
“(The vuvuzelas) were about the kids,” Saro said. “We thought if we get enough of these things here and making noise, it would make it that much more fun for them.”
While the Challenge Cup brought ROYSA’s 2011 spring season to a close, preparations are already being made for the next session. Registration for the fall season runs until Aug. 1 and officials expect about 1,600 local youth to participate in the fall. To register, or for more information on ROYSA, visit www.roysa.com.