August 29, 2015

72° Partly Cloudy

Cannon Soccer Club holds tryouts

Published 11:02 am Monday, June 16, 2014

While the American soccer team was preparing in Brazil for its opening World Cup match with Ghana, 103 Warren County youngsters were displaying their soccer skills for coaches Saturday morning at the Vicksburg Soccer Association complex in Bovina.

Players from under 10 years old to 14 were crossing the fields running, dribbling, passing and displaying their skills as they prepared to try out and be evaluated by coaches for Divisions I and II in the Cannon Soccer Club, the VSO’s competitive organization.

The goal of the tryouts is to determine each player’s skill level and give the coaches time to get in some training before the teams are selected. The next time the players will meet is the league practices, which begin in late August, Dawn Farthing, vice president of the club’s Divisions I and II, and a Cannon Soccer Club board member, said.

Cannon is split into seven age groups — under 10 boys and girls, under 11 boys and girls, under 12 boys and boys and girls 13/14.

Farthing said youngsters who did not register for the tryouts, but want to play can still sign up for the league on the VSO’s website at, and officials will try to match them with a team. Competition begins in early September.

Besides getting the youngsters ready to play, the club, which was formed in 1982, is hoping to return the local soccer program to the position it once held in the state.

“At one time, this area was the center for soccer in Mississippi,” Farthing said. “It began declining in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At one time, we had 1,500 kids playing soccer. We’re rebuilding now. We’re back to 400 to 500 now.”

She said the World Cup has had a strong influence on the resumed growth. “Everyone has World Cup fever,” she said, adding some of the youngsters list international soccer stars as their sports heroes.

Another influence is the return of former coaches and former players who are now coaches.

“I absolutely love it,” said Chelsea Whitten, a former VSO player who is a coach and the organization’s president. “We are seeing progress.”

One change, she said, is a more rounded approach that exposes the players to the different positions in the game.

“When I played, the coaches determined the position where you were the strongest and put you there, and that’s where you stayed,” she said. “Now we try to rotate the players so they play all the positions on the field. It allows them to meet different challenges, and that can help them at any age.”

The club’s goal is promoting excellence by developing the players’ skills, Farthing said. “We believe that if the players develop and improve their skills, excellence will follow,” Farthing said. “We enjoy the competition and winning, and we want win, but we feel player development is the best way to go, and that means allowing the kids to play the different positions, not just putting them in one position or putting some kids in at the end of the game.”

“This program is not just getting the kids prepared to play soccer, but we’re also helping prepare them for life outside of soccer,” said Matt Malej, director of coaching and player development. A native of Poland who grew up in the U.S., Malej played college soccer for New Jersey Institute of Technology and works at ERDC (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center). He has been director of coaching and player development for two years. Besides working with the youngsters, he works with the coaches to develop their skills and become certified with the U.S. Soccer Association.

“They’re learning to not be afraid to take on challenges,” he said. “What they’re learning on the field, they can use off it. A lot of our kids have performed well off the field, doing well in other areas and academically. They’ve won other honors besides winning games.”