Under-8 jamboree big hit for State Games soccer
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
June 20, 2004
The State Games of Mississippi's youth soccer tournament didn't want to see its youngest players left out of the action this year.
With the Mississippi Youth Soccer Association sanctioning the state-wide tournament for the first time in the Games' history, the under-8 tournament which has been held in the past couldn't be part of the event this year. The MYSA doesn't sanction competitive under-8 tourneys.
In order to keep the under-8 teams part of the youth soccer event, the Games held an under-8 jamboree for the young players. Which looked to be a risky idea before the jamboree was held on Saturday.
"We decided we would try the (jamboree) for State Games, and if there is no interest, we wouldn't do it again," said youth soccer commissioner Doug Kitchens. "We had jamborees in the past and there wasn't any interest."
The jamboree attracted 27 teams the largest pool of players for any age group to the Meridian High School football practice field. The practice facility held four fields.
"That's crazy," Kitchens said of the turnout for the jamboree. "It really worked out great, and we were really surprised we got that many teams."
The under-8 teams didn't keep an official score for the games, and squads fielded four players at a time, instead of the standard seven for that age group.
Though there were no medal games at the end of the jamboree, Mike Crowe who coaches the Meridian Youth Soccer Organization Lightning boys under-8 team said it didn't take away from the action on the field.
"Last year, it was competitive, and this year, it was the same way," said Crowe, whose team played four games. "These teams were out to play. Nobody wanted to lose or let another team score on you. It really didn't change much from last year."
Most under-8 squads played three games in a round-robin format at the jamboree, which was only held on the first day of the youth soccer competition. Youth soccer wraps up today with medal games for the under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16 age groups.
"We had a good time," said South Mississippi Soccer Club under-8 girls coach Jeff Bruni. "I think we may have lost about two pounds out there sweating."
All of the players who participated in the under-8 jamboree received first-place medals from the Games.
"We appreciate all of the teams that played in the jamboree," Kitchens said. "We want them to know that they are the future of soccer in Mississippi, and we are happy that they decided to be the first group to participate in the State Games jamboree."
The youth soccer competition drew 97 teams to Meridian. Games were held at the Jaycee Soccer Complex and the Northeast Soccer Complex for the under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16 age groups.