Delaware Union soccer league deals with limited field space

Taking part in a Delaware Union camp during last week’s spring break were, from left, Eli Stark, Ziad Rasamny, Evan Gebhart, and Brody Skinner. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Taking part in a Delaware Union camp during last week’s spring break were, from left, Eli Stark, Ziad Rasamny, Evan Gebhart, and Brody Skinner. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — Ultimately, loving the game overcomes any negatives associated with it.

No matter what, the Delaware Union and its roughly 450 youth soccer players are still kicking it this spring.

Field space is tight at Delaware Union Park, since another traditional venue is no longer available for the first time in about a quarter century.

All recreational regular season games are played at the complex at 806 Lewis Drive in Dover, which is visible from Del. 1 to the west but otherwise isolated in a quiet stretch of Kent County.

The Delaware Union is taking an economical approach to use of field space this spring season at its complex on Lewis Drive in Dover. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

The Delaware Union is taking an economical approach to use of field space this spring season at its complex on Lewis Drive in Dover. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

The Union had previously played at Schutte Park as well for 25 years, but couldn’t connect with the City of Dover to reserve space this spring season.

Thus, Saturday recreational games run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on eight fields, with two smaller fields available as well. If needed, three full-sized fields can be configured too.

So far, Union President Dan Simmons said, there have been no complaints.

“I think everyone likes the fields, but we’re crammed in space-wise,” he said at a spring break camp last week.

Furthermore, Mr. Simmons summed it all up by saying, “We are a work in progress, but it is a labor of love for all of us.

“The kids seem to be happy, and that is why we do this.”

Parking space is problematic, however, and the nonprofit is still hoping to find a vendor who can offer food and drinks for hungry players, parents and anyone else who’s taking part.

“Probably the biggest thing is parking,” Mr. Simmons said. “Also we’re not in a centrally located area and we’ve got people coming from all over the county.”

Parent Rick Schlauch believes the kids ages 3 to 19 are enjoying themselves nonetheless as another season unfolds.

“There’s a ball, there’s a net, there’s a field,” he said. “They’re ready to go out and have fun, which is the bottom line.”

Mr. Schlauch believes in the Union’s long-standing commitment to player development and said, “I’ve seen a huge difference in my daughter.”

The Union touts its array of U.S. Soccer-certified coaches and instructors, and the popular 3 v. 3 tournament and summer camp are still on the schedule. The park is still home to a men’s adult league in May, along with youth instructional sessions on Friday nights.

“You can’t really compare costs to any other league because they are not providing the same benefits,” Mr. Schlauch said.

With a smile on her face, 10-year-old Sarah Schlauch described why she’s enjoying this season as much as any other.

“I get to meet new people, and if they’re new to soccer I can actually help them because I have some experience,” she said.

Plus, soccer on the weekend provides a great alternative to the school routine during the week.

“Exercise at my school means only a few minutes to play outside before they blow a whistle and start lining us up to go back inside,” Sarah said.

Mr. Simmons hasn’t given up hope that the Union can re-establish a relationship with the city that carves out time at Schutte Park, and said the organization is also looking into other alternative sites for the future.

“I would like to think we could possibly still work something out down the road, but who knows,” Mr. Simmons said.

The Union published its inaugural “First Touch” newsletter in April 2014, which referenced continuing “an ‘all out’ effort to transform Delaware soccer and its youth system,” recognizing “this is not possible without the dedication of our parents, players, and coaches.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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