Soccer for Everyone

A Conversation with Sporting Kaw Valley Executive Director Kirsten Judd

Sporting Kaw Valley has provided youth soccer programming to children in Lawrence and surrounding communities since 1982. SKV is the first Academy Affiliate club of Sporting Kansas City, meaning they are branded under the Sporting name and strive towards a common goal of growing soccer in this community.  A major goal of the Academy Affiliate program is to better scout and develop players, giving Sporting Kaw Valley a pathway to the pros. SKV knows not every player is destined for the big leagues; they are just as happy to teach the sport to three-year-olds who may be more interested in the post-game snack.

Lawrence City Lifestyle sat down with executive director Kirsten Judd to learn more about the club and its community offerings.

LCL: What is the mission of Sporting Kaw Valley?

KJ: Our official mission is to enrich lives and connect communities through the sport of soccer and to introduce the game of soccer to youth of all ages and skill levels to allow each player to develop at their highest potential.

My personal mission for the Club is to be the best youth soccer organization in the Midwest. I want to ensure that all players in our program can grow as individuals, develop as players, and have fun.

LCL: So, how would you define success?

KJ: Success will be different for every player and every skill level. For those players just starting out, success is having a blast with your friends and learning to dribble the ball without falling over it. For those destined to play at the next level, success is getting that scholarship to the college of your dreams.

In my opinion, success is having a player pathway that allows players to develop, but most of all, where players can have fun. Players succeed most when they like what they do and are enjoying it. It’s been said that fun and hard work in youth sports are not mutually exclusive. You can have both and that is what I strive for.

Part of having fun is the social aspect of soccer. Deep-seated friendships are often formed by coming to practice week after week and playing with the same group of kids. Some players start at a recreation level and they play all the way through high school with the same bunch of kids. Not everyone will stick with the sport or develop as fast as others, but soccer remains a very social sport regardless of how far you progress.

That's why I say soccer is for everyone. There's no "I" in soccer. It takes a team to play the game. 

LCL: So soccer is played all year?

KJ: Yes, we offer soccer programming year-round. We have dedicated fall, winter and spring seasons. Then, our summers are built around summer camps and skill development. Recreation and Academy players play by the season, but our competitive players play ten months out of a year.

LCL: Are these kids serious about playing for a college or professional team?

KJ: Some definitely are. We have had many players play at the collegiate level over the years.

LCL: Can you tell me about your programs?

KJ: Sure, essentially we have four levels of play.

The first level is Sporting Stripes, our preschool program for players three to five years old. These players play once a week for six weeks. Teams are formed by preschool when possible and coached by volunteers. At this level, we teach the fundamentals of the game and have lots of fun with the littles.

The second level is Recreation. These are also teams formed by the school the players attend when possible. A volunteer parent typically coaches. We are grateful to have so much support from parents. We have about 200 volunteer coaches throughout the club every season which is awesome. We couldn't do these programs without our volunteers. The Recreation program has a dedicated fall and spring season, which runs for seven weeks.

The Academy is a mid-level developmental bridge between our recreation and competitive programs. As players move up to the next level, players devote more time to soccer. Academy players practice twice weekly and play eight game seasons in the fall and spring.

Premier is our most competitive level. Our premier players play ten months out of the year and those months are filled with two to three practices a week, games, travel and tournaments. These teams are formed by tryouts that take place in June. No other program except Premier has tryouts.

LCL: Can you start playing at any age?

KJ: Absolutely! Soccer is a life sport. You can start playing soccer whenever you want. There's no specific age where you're too old or young. We've got a place for everybody at every age and skill level. It makes it really fun. Parents can also get involved with the local adult soccer league.

LCL: How do you feel about your job?

KJ: I think Sporting Kaw Valley is a special place. It has a rich history and a bright future and I'm happy to be a part of it. Just as soccer is a team sport, so is running a soccer club. I believe an organization is only as good as the people in it and I think we have the best leadership team, coaches, referees, players and parents in the business. I am excited about the future of Sporting Kaw Valley as we continue to grow and develop our programming, reaching more players and ensuring they are having fun while they are with us.

LCL: Is there anything coming up for SKV?

KJ: Yes, on December 15th we open registration for the spring season, which will start playing in late March. All players register online at SportingKV.com

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