Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017

Soccer club prepares young Hornets

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Peter Johnson, Zachary Jenkins and Josh Guadarrama work on their soccer skills during Harvard Hornets 8U and 10U Coed soccer practice Nov. 17 at Jefferson Elementary School. HML PHOTO BY JAY SCHULZ

While the Harvard High School boys soccer team was busy qualifying for the IHSA state finals for the first time in school history, another group was busy preparing younger Hornets soccer players of the future. Harvard Hornets 8U and 10U Coed Soccer, the brainchild of Harvard residents Allison Eichholz and Chrissy Pederson, was formed to fill the gap left during the AYSO offseason.

Pederson and Eichholz are good friends, and their sons, Connor and Lorenzo, are best friends. They were looking for a way for them to play soccer year round, and they found it with indoor soccer.

“For both our boys, soccer is their heart and soul,” Eichholz said. “They love the sport.”

“I think it’s a great program,” Pederson said. “Allison and I wanted our kids to play together, and we thought coaching together would be the best way to do it. … You finish in the fall and there is nothing for them to do over the winter. This just keeps them active all winter long, so when the spring season starts for AYSO, they are ready to go. You are not having to rebuild their skills over the spring.”

Eichholz and Pederson talked to some other AYSO coaches and were told about indoor soccer. The organization was formed last year with one team of 20 children between the ages of 6 and 9. All competition was played in Rockford. This fall, the organization has three teams of 15, two 8U and one 10U, and has moved to the McHenry Athletic Complex, Crystal Lake.

The organization plays five weeks in the fall and nine weeks in the spring with one game each week. They practice from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Jefferson School.

“So far, so good,” Pederson said of the Crystal Lake location. “It’s closer for us so that’s going to be a lot easier in the winter time.”

The organization has several other volunteer coaches – Nate Binz, Joe Dacy and Mike Saunders. Jeremy Adams, president of the local AYSO program, has also helped out.

“The coaches are working out great,” Pederson said. “If we had to [coach] all three teams, just Allison and I, it would be kind of tough. It’s nice to have them helping with the program.”

McHenry County College soccer player and Woodstock North High School graduate Cody Kupsik is helping train the players.

“Cody’s been amazing,” Eichholz said. “The kids love him. He’s really learned how to handle all of them. He’s really been a blessing to us.”

A big change this year was separating the players into the 8U and 10U teams, which has helped the younger players improve, according to Pederson, whose daughter Tallulah is on one of the 8U teams.

“They are in a league that is more their pace, and they are doing fantastic,” Pederson said. “Splitting the kids has really helped. Some of the younger kids, who were on the team last year, are showing the other kids what to do.”

Eichholz said she is impressed with how much better the children play during the AYSO season now that they are playing year round.

“It’s really been a lot of fun watching the kids from the fall to the spring – how much they learn and progress in the sport,” Eichholz said. “It’s been really cool.”

“From where they started to where they are now, I’m very proud of each player. We have a lot of amazing kids and a lot of wonderful families involved.”