Savage youth soccer teams receive timely financial boost

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

November 02, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

WHEN YOU'RE feeling a little down and stressed, there's nothing like a gift of $5,000 to make your day. Sometimes, people in sports do, in fact, look after one another, despite impressions you might get from the overpaid pros these days.

Just ask the Savage Boys and Girls Club.

Even in terms of that five-sport, all-volunteer club, the five Gs aren't really that much money, most years. But the timing - a one-time grant that arrived last week - couldn't have been more appreciated.

The money, earmarked for the club's struggling soccer program, came from the Soccer '94 Foundation in Washington. The group, which traces its roots to 1990 and the D.C. area's efforts to be a big-time player in the 1994 men's World Cup.

With profits - errr, proceeds - from its nonprofit effort, the little-publicized foundation says it has now pumped about $850,000 into area soccer groups.

At Savage, said soccer commissioner Ralph Albano, the money will help subsidize the club's rec-level efforts in the sport. He applied for a grant after discovering the Soccer '94 name on D.C. United's Web site.

The need emerged, Albano said, for several reasons, not least of which has been the weak economy.

"We've lost about half of our corporate sponsors," Albano said, referring to the small businesses in the Savage area that have regularly ponied up, say, $500 or so a year to help underwrite the young athletes' endeavors. In fact, other youth clubs in recent years have admired Savage's success in obtaining such donations.

"We may have 15 now, out of what was 30 or 40," said Albano, who like others is hoping that with the economy improving so, too, will that figure.

Then, the county Recreation and Parks Department doubled fees it had been charging for use of Savage Park. In addition, Albano said, the club experienced slippage in soccer enrollment last fall - especially in the age groups for players over 11 for both boys and girls - to the point that the club for the first time could not field an in-house league in those groups.

But then entered another source of help: The county's largest youth soccer group, the Soccer Association of Columbia/ Howard County, agreed to let seven girls teams and five boys teams from Savage play in its neighborhood leagues.

Weather report

Speaking of SAC/HC, you might be wondering what the exceptionally wet summer has meant in terms of the new, eight-field, Covenant Park opening on time next spring.

The answer from Dave Procida, the club president:

"It depends on what kind of winter we have. But we've been able to get sod down, and the two artificial turf fields will be OK. We've also obtained turf blankets to help things take hold."

The club dearly wants to begin play in its new facilities on Centennial Lane, just north of Columbia and roughly opposite Centennial Park, for the Memorial Day weekend tournament next May, at the very latest.

The turf blankets, you may recall, have helped rec and parks people restore turf significantly, at least to start spring seasons, over the past couple of winters at Cedar Lane and Rockburn Branch parks.

Along the sidelines

YET MORE SOCCER: SAC/HC is far from alone in adding synthetic turf fields for its youth program, although it might not have a lot of company in paying for them itself.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation, the best-known of the sport's benefactors, dealt out turf fields this year, with a little help from Nike, to clubs in seven states and the District of Columbia, among them Kirkwood, in New Castle, Del., and FC Delco in Coatesville, Pa., both frequent opponents of Howard County teams.

FIGURE SKATING: Several Columbia Figure Skating Club members have qualified for next month's U.S. Junior Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz. Sister and brother Rebecca and Paul Tran qualified for intermediate ladies and men's competition, respectively; Samantha Tomarchio and Alexander Lorello in intermediate dance; Kendall Church (with Bowie's Dustin Cohen) in juvenile pairs; and Erin Maskell (with Washington's Timothy Petrie) in juvenile dance.

Jason Weisberg and Lindsay Sperling (with Northern Virginia's Kevin Curtis) will compete in novice men and novice pairs, respectively, next week in U.S. Figure Skating's Eastern section championships at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun .com.

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