Archive for Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Soccer stirs passion among area youth

October 25, 2006


Teenagers that jumped on the soccer bandwagon at a young age have reaped the benefits of having years of experience in the sport as game competition increases.

Thirteen-year-old Jackson Mercer, who plays for the Kansas Soccer Academy Renegades has played since his parents signed him up for recreation leagues when he was in kindergarten.

Like many players in Lawrence who have been involved in the sport of soccer from a young age, he said he now practically eats, breathes and lives soccer to keep up with the increased competition and soccer frenzy.

"I spend pretty much most of my time every week playing and training," Mercer said. "When I'm not playing I'm usually watching games about every hour of the week except for when I'm sleeping."

Mercer plays for a KSA premier league, which means bigger competition that forces a strong commitment to the sport from young players.

"It has definitely gotten more competitive the longer I've played," Mercer said. "Everyone is better and faster and stronger. You have to keep up and be on top of your game all the time."

Premier leagues have steadily grown in prominence in Lawrence through the KSA and Kaw Valley Soccer Assn. leagues.

In search of competitive games, many of the teams play in Topeka and Kansas City as well as some matches across Kansas.

Brad Fanshier said his 10-year-old daughter, Tanna, spent most of her week practicing and playing in preparation for weekend premier games. Fanshier said when his daughter was not at practice or a game, she was usually in the backyard kicking the ball around.

Like Mercer, Tanna Fanshier started playing in kindergarten, but had steadily gotten more and more involved in soccer since then. She currently plays for a KSA team as well.

"I like the fact that it is really competitive," Tanna Fanshier said. "You have to work hard at it if you really want to do it. If you really want to do it you can't be half way in and half way out."

Years on the soccer field have allowed both Mercer and Fanshier the opportunity to stay committed to and grow in the sport. Both said they have noticed marked improvement in their skill level since entering the premier league. Both currently focus on soccer as their main sport and activity outside of school.

"Since I've been playing it's gotten harder and more serious," Tanna Fanshier said. "It used to be a fun little thing that I did, and now it's a big thing that I do."

Both Mercer and Tanna Fanshier said they have certainly caught a wave of soccer fever.

Both avidly watched the World Cup this summer and like to watch professional soccer teams during the regular season. They said their soccer passion even extends into their activities with friends and schoolmates.

But for all the hard work and obsession, Brad Fanshier said the time and effort must have paid off.

Tanna's team is currently undefeated after moving up a couple divisions in the premier league, and Mercer said he looks forward to conquering even more teams and tournaments.


BrianR 11 years, 8 months ago

I'm just glad to hear the footie is catching on. This is good.

firebird27 11 years, 8 months ago

LJWorld article states:

"ThePremier leagues have steadily grown in prominence in Lawrence through the KSA and Kaw Valley Soccer Assn. leagues."

This may be true but these organizations have failed to provide Premier teams that are competitive, and the reason is obvious in two ways. The best youth soccer is played in Kansas City. To the best of my knowledge, no Lawrence team has ever won a State Cup title. In the past, teams that were from Lawrence have been beaten badly. Second, and more painfully, this lack of competitiveness shows up in our local high school teams, especially for girls. The best girl soccer teams that LHS and Free State have produced had the most players whose premier team was based in Kansas City.

Kansas City premier teams still attract the best player talent and the best coaches. For this reason, the local KVSA teams may please parents and other locals, but these teams are not competitive with Kansas City teams.

These facts constitute a sad truth. No one should ever be upset with local high school soccer coaches. Their success relies heavily upon how many Lawrence players commute to belong to Kansas City teams that compete at the highest level.

fixx25 11 years, 8 months ago

Hmmm..."failed to provide Premier teams that are competitive?". You better check your facts. Not only are our teams competitive, but they do some really great things (including winning their Divisions at Heartland in KC and the Heritage Invitational tournament in KC, both full of KC teams...and some of our teams are playing in the top "Championship" division in KC. Let's not mention the fact that the KC Metro area has at least 10 times our population to select players from...

Before you make generalistic statements that are "to the best of your knowledge" about the overall health of Lawrence soccer, you should check your facts. Lawrence parents should be very proud of their soccer programs and the level they are playing at. As someone whose son's premier team has won the above titles...your dead wrong and your doing your community a disservice by making such broad sweeping statments.

firebird27 11 years, 8 months ago

To fixx25:

If I am so incorrect (and I may be), then such excellence should show up in the Sunflower League. Both LHS and Free State for boys had losing records this year, and both girl teams have not had a winning season for a number of years.

Moreover, you can win division titles at Heartland, but there are different levels of premier. In the past when Lawrence teams won, they were often division-level 2, not 1.

Lawrence parents should be proud of their children's accomplishments, and we should be proud of them when they enter high school and perform. But consistently, Olathe teams dominate the state championships, and if you look closely for where team players played and at what division, I think you will find that Lawrence teams are unlikely to be there. Jason Pendleton has done an admirable job of getting the boy teams to Sub-State, but the girl teams are a far different issue.

Once again, I may be wrong (there is nothing wrong about being tentative in one's commentary), but if you look at the Kansas State Cup 2006 Championship results on the internet, there is not one team from Lawrence. They are all from Kansas City. See:

I agree that the demographics of Lawrence puts the city at a comparative disadvantage to Kansas City. This is why some parents from Lawrence "commute" their kids to play on Kansas City teams.

I hope that Lawrence club teams at the club level can be highly successful one day -- winning the State Cup.

Leprechaunking13 11 years, 8 months ago

Kansas City has been the stage for premiere youth soccer since I was playing in kvsa, more parents want their kids involved in other sports other than soccer. it's starting to get a bigger base but it's not like lawrence is just going to explode with soccer talent overnight

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