Volunteer State League Fills Void For Tennessee Youth Players
AS Tennessee’s leading clubs grew their programs it became increasingly clear there was a void in the state soccer system that needed to be filled.
For boys and girls aged under 13 there was no organized league.
Until they were old enough, youth players had to make do with friendly games and tournaments to hone their competitiveness.
With the increasing need for development in younger players, the clubs decided that something had to be done to ensure all their youth players would get every opportunity to be as good as they could possibly be.
If there wasn’t a state league, then the clubs decided they would form one themselves with the help of US Club Soccer.
And so the Volunteer State League was born.
Four of the state’s top clubs - Chattanooga FC, Tennessee Soccer Club (Nashville), FC Alliance (Knoxville) and FC Dallas TRI ((Bristol, Johnson City, and Kongsport) - banded together to make it happen and they are hoping that 80 boys and 80 girls teams, comprising of upwards of 1,600 kids, will kick off the inaugural season in the Fall.
“In Tennessee, there has never been an organized league for U-13 and younger players,” explained Matt Yelton, Chattanooga FC’s Academy Executive Director. “They were always on their own and it created a real problem with the development model. You want to have a training environment that leads into a game environment.
“What was happening was the clubs were getting involved in too many tournaments and the cost was getting excessive.
“Our aim with the league is to give players, parents and coaches the best possible experience. Being affiliated with like-minded clubs is crucial to player development, and we believe that by being a part of the Volunteer State League, our teams and players will have a better route to development than they have ever had before,” added Matt, who ran the soccer program at Lee University for 18 years.
Other clubs are already showing interest and the founders are expecting the league will grow quickly with the help of US Club Soccer’s Kevin McGovern, who is working with the club officials to get everything in place in readiness for the launch. While the focus will be on the younger players, incorporating a U-9 through U-12 academy division, U-13 to U-19 teams from the second and third division will also be involved.
Among the Volunteer State League’s plans are creating a state championship with advancement to US Club Soccer’s National Cup Regionals and hosting an annual Player Development Program event.
“When you add the player identification and a strong focus on coaching education, the Volunteer State League will be a great avenue for our players and coaches to reach maximum potential,” said Josh Gray, FC Alliance Girls Director of Coaching.
Stuart Brown, Tennessee Soccer Club’s Executive Director, added: “It’s our mission to continue our growth and development as a club, and in doing so, we must remain focused on player development and creating the right environment to foster growth.”