The founders of a soccer league have received a Community Service Award for their work to bring thousands of kids together for games that don’t require costly travel out of Southern Oregon.
Development League of Southern Oregon representatives Matthew Soper, Dave Kaufman, Christopher Van Ness and Xavier Valdes were honored Wednesday with the award from the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
Kaufman and Soper had been running a local soccer program geared primarily toward at-risk youth from families that generally didn’t have a lot of money.
Soper said the goal was to launch a league that would bring together local soccer clubs for games, reducing the pressure to travel to places like Portland and other distant cities.
Local soccer enthusiasts formed the Development League of Southern Oregon, which organizes games for clubs stretching from Grants Pass to Jackson County communities to Klamath Falls. Participants range in age from 4 to 18.
Soper said the Southern Oregon games keep travel costs down, and families love that they are able to see many of the games together.
“There’s more of a family unity when they can come and watch the kids play,” he said.
Kaufman, former South Medford High School boys soccer coach, said families are encouraged to hold off on distant trips until players reach high school age.
“We believe that it limits the expense that way and it keeps kids engaged and excited to participate on that level,” he said.
Kaufman said the Southern Oregon league borrowed principles from Europe, using smaller fields, smaller goals and fewer players on a team so each kid has more contact with the ball during a game and more opportunity to develop his or her skills.
The league doesn’t have Sunday games. That way, soccer games don’t consume a family’s whole weekend, and people of faith can attend services, Kaufman said.
“It’s been a good success for the families that we serve and the coaches,” he said.
Valdes said the goal of the league is to help each soccer player develop and to make the game accessible to as many youths as possible.
“We do everything we can to make cost not a limiting factor,” he said. “So we have tried to keep our costs down and still make it financially available for everyone who is interested.”
Van Ness said the men were surprised to receive the Jackson County Community Service Award, but added it felt good to be recognized for their efforts to bring disparate Southern Oregon soccer clubs together.
“For us, it’s developed quite a lot, so we’re excited to see the impact that it’s had on our players and our communities,” Van Ness said. “I guess this is an opportunity for us to recognize just how significant that might be. That’s pretty cool.”
Soccer clubs that play in the league include Southern Oregon Soccer Academy, Oregon Futbol Academy, Medford United Futbol Club, Upper Rogue United Futbol Club, Rogue River Soccer Club and faith-centered God’s Children United Soccer Club.
Phil Ortega and Nita Lundberg, who helped launch the Upper Rogue United Futbol Club, were recipients of Jackson County’s Community Service Award in June 2016.
For more information about the Development League of Southern Oregon, see dlsosite.azurewebsites.net/.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.