Sports Reporting Story 9: High Country Soccer Association Growing in Numbers and in Skill
High Country Soccer Association has their first team in the highest North Carolina Youth Soccer Association league for the classic division of play.
Since 2008, participation in the club has grown by 450% according to HCSA’s website. However, Director of Coaching Kiki Wallace said he is not only focused on growing the club’s numbers, but hopes to grow the level it competes at across the state.
“When I first got here we didn’t have proper practice attire for everyone so I had kids practicing in polos and jeans in grass to their knees,” Wallace said. “I wanted to quit and move back to Indiana.”
Now Wallace is in the process of looking for land to build more fields and an indoor facility for winter programs.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” he said.
As the numbers have grown the talent has also increased. Wallace said it somewhat had to do with getting more players in the club but said a big part of building the talent was giving kids proper training from a young age.
“Getting more qualified coaches on the staff was a big part of building the club’s level of play,” Wallace said. “Now every coach is licensed by NCYSA and every program has a qualified coach from the youngest kids to the oldest.”
Wallace said that Technical Director of Coaching Ben Birdsong sees the product of kids being with qualified coaches from the start in coaching the clubs under-14 boys travel team.
“This group is the first group who started in our Academy Program at the youngest age in the club and worked through each Academy level one through three and are now at the travel level,” Birdsong said. “Six or seven of these boys have played together since they were 11 and have all been in the club since they were 6 so they are proof that the level is increasing amongst the club.”
The team competes in the NCYSA Classic League in the U14 Elite West division. The Elite division is the highest division in the NCYSA Classic League in which teams are split by region: East, West and Piedmont. From there they compete in a league that is the top teams from all three regions.
The team is six games into their season and have two wins, three losses and one tie. The teams first win this season marked HCSA’s first win in the Elite division of the NCYSA Classic League.
U14 Boys player Thomas Gatewood said he is proud to be a part of a team that made history at the club.
“We have moved up every season except one and winning in the highest division is really cool,” Gatewood said.
Wallace said it was a great moment to see the U14 boys, and club, win its first game at the Elite division and said it confirmed his decision to stay with HCSA after his first practice and not move back to Indiana.