A variety of changes are coming to the Bethlehem Soccer Club.
As the youth sports program prepares to partner with Afrim Sports on the construction of a new indoor soccer dome on its Wemple Road property, it has also decided to begin providing more thorough lessons for a younger level of athletes.
Beginning this spring, Bethlehem Soccer Club instructors will provide lessons for the area’s pre-school age children. Club President Jeremy Martelle said the “academy-style” training is being offered because kids are getting involved in sports earlier than in previous years, and the club’s board saw a need in the community.
“This is something we’re offering to not just Bethlehem children, but the Capital District as a whole,” said Martelle. “We are excited to offer this program because we will be able to provide more structured training then you can find elsewhere for this age level.”
Martelle said the idea came from within the club. Many participants have younger siblings who also wanted to the type of training provided to their brothers and sisters. To be eligible, kids must have been born before Dec. 1, 2009 and entering kindergarten in the fall of 2014.
In the past, parent volunteers coached the younger children. The new “professional model” will help the kids build their technical skills in the game. A licensed, professional coach will act as training director. Technical coaches will then be available to help the parent volunteers.
“Individual academy practices will focus on teaching basic soccer skills in a fun, kid-friendly environment,” according to a statement about the program. “Academy practices will be one hour in length. The first 40 minutes of the session will focus on basic skills training. The last 20 minutes will focus on team activities and a short scrimmage.”
Although the changes to the program will allow the club to take on a greater number of kids, Martelle said the club isn’t expecting to raise more funds. The registration fee remains $75.
“The dome is already being funded through our partnership, so that isn’t the reason at all,” said Martelle. “This is just a perceived need and something we’re hearing other club members would like. If the organization grows because of this, then at least we are keeping kids involved and engaged in the process.”
For years, the Bethlehem Soccer Club had attempted to build an indoor soccerplex on its own. In June, the organization announced it would be partnering with Afrim Nezaj, owner of two other Capital District soccer facilities, to build an indoor soccer dome. The partnership would mean both the club and Nezaj would pay for the facility to be built. After construction, day-to-day operations would be left to Nezaj, with the Bethlehem Soccer Club acting as a landlord. The project is now before the town’s Planning Board.
A meeting will be held on Saturday, March 1, at 9:30 a.m. at Bethlehem Central Middle School to highlight how the program will work.