Editor's note: This is one in a series of articles featuring the Lawrence soccer teams that participate in the Premier league of Hearland Soccer Assn.
Two years ago two active members of the Lawrence soccer community had a vision of a new soccer league. They dreamed of a league in which young players could improve as one and have fun while doing it. Prompted by their vision, Kevin Barone and Mark Craig branched out to form the Lawrence Legacy soccer league with a clear strategy for achievement.
Barone and Craig decided to start the new league in order to build a close-knit team through continuity that they thought was lacking from other clubs and leagues in the city, which mixes different players together every season. Barone and Craig began their league with the U13 boys Lawrence Legacy team.
"We just wanted to come together as one team that could play together and move up together," Barone said.
Even with a simple goal, the league faced its fair share of challenges. Barone said the league has had to organize everything for itself from rules to player cards to finding places to host games and tournaments. When they made the decision to branch off, the team also had to face the heady task of recruiting players to play in the new league.
Though the league's uphill battle did not come without its fair share of rewards. Barone and Craig happily reported that the battle was well worth it. The weekend of April 22 the U13 team took home the third place title, 3-1, in the Azzura soccer tournament in Hutchinson.
Craig, head coach of the Legacy team, said the team's title was a big accomplishment considering the Legacy recently moved up from playing eight vs. eight soccer to 11 vs. 11. The move was a step in the direction towards professional soccer and allowed the team to play on a regulation-sized field with a regulation-sized ball.
The bigger field and overall seriousness of the game has also pushed the team to become better players through the increased competition.
"We are competing against teams older than us. This has forced us to become more aggressive in our play," Craig said.
To stack up with the competition the team is working on improving its play in certain positions this season. Craig said while the team always focuses on ball-handling skills in general, this season they are narrowing in on the stopper, sweeper and midfield positions.
"We want to increase our midfield play as well as some new stopper and sweeper combinations," Craig said. "Those three have been our focus."
Craig said another goal of his for the team is to play different venues and teams. This season Legacy has faced off against teams from Kansas City, Wichita, Salina, McPherson and Hutchinson.
For all his goals and objectives, Craig said he sees the rewards of the team's hard work when watching the Legacy players enjoy the game of soccer. The enjoyment was most evident at the Hutchinson tournament, where the team members' excitement for the game overflowed into pick-up games in between their matches.
"The most rewarding thing is witnessing the friendships that develop and the enjoyment of the players in the game of soccer," Craig said.
Barone said that whether the team wins or loses or faces down the challenges of a brand new league, it is about growing as a team and learning to love the game.
"It is not always about winning, sometimes you lose, but you learn," Craig said.