This weekend, soccer fields across Chautauqua County will come alive as the Northern Chautauqua Soccer Association’s (NCSA) Concord FC spring travel season kicks off. The club, which offers competitive soccer for athletes throughout the southern tier area of Western New York, is designed to rejuvenate soccer players after a long winter and prepare them for their upcoming fall seasons. Concord FC gives boys and girls a chance to play soccer with different coaches and teammates than their high school teams – thus advancing their soccer skills and knowledge of the game – while still maintaining a fun and rewarding experience. Chris Witkowski, NCSA board member and Director of Concord FC, sat down with the Jamestown Gazette to discuss the history of the club, its mission, and what to expect from this spring season.
Cortney: There are a lot of soccer programs within the Northern Chautauqua Soccer Association throughout the year. Can you tell me specifically what you’ve got going on this spring?
Witkowski: Yes, so just to explain: NCSA is the parent organization of all the branches. There’s the competitive side, which is spring and fall, and the house league, which is in the summer and is non-competitive. So the NCSA is the whole organization, but our spring travel club is called Concord FC. As far as players go, we accept everyone: the travel league starts off with what we call 9U, or 9-and-under, and normally we get 7, 8, and 9-year-olds. It goes all the way up to 19-year-olds. This year, our spring travel league has nine full teams. Typically, our season starts at the end of April and goes till the end of June. We are getting into a new endeavor this year and joining a new meeting called the Buffalo and Western New York Junior Soccer League, so those games may last a little longer, maybe until late July.
Cortney: Tell me about the history of this club – when was it first started? Why was it important to create an alternative to high school soccer?
Witkowski: It started in 1988. It was created by Jim Enser, who is still a coach today, and he is actually my predecessor as the director of the spring travel league; I just took over in December. He created this because a lot of it had to do with getting the youth ready for high school soccer, and providing an environment for them to play, keep off the streets, and do an activity that’s fun. Everything started off with our regular house summer league and grew from there. Now we have the competitive side of it, too.
Cortney: The NCSA’s mission states that it strives to “promote a positive youth sports culture.” How do you do this within your travel league?
Witkowski: Our primary goal is to get our coaches, who are essentially the base of our organization. They’re the ones who are interacting with the children one-on-one. We’re working heavily on getting them the education and training necessary to ensure and carry out our vision.
Cortney: How do you find and select your coaches?
Witkowski: Most of our coaches are all from this local area, even though our players come from all over – we have some coming from as far as Olean and Randolph. This year, our coaches are getting paid: it’s more or less a reimbursement for the everyday expenses of travel, team snacks, etc. One thing the NCSA is always struggling for, though, is volunteers in any capacity. We’ll always welcome anyone who wants to be a volunteer, a board member, that sort of thing.
For more information on the NCSA or Concord FC spring soccer, visit the NCSA’s website or Facebook page. To volunteer time, talent or resources to the league, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.