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Experience the Love of the Game With Tampa Bay United Soccer Club

By S. Mathur

Tampa Bay United (TBU) Soccer Club's goal is providing opportunities for boys and girls of all ages to play soccer. With a variety of recreational and competitive soccer programs for children, teenagers and young adults, it offers a number ways to participate in the sport. Parents have a chance to participate as coaches for the recreational programs for younger children.

CEO Charlie Slagle says that the variety of recreational and competitive programs allow children and their parents to decide at what level they want to play the game. Either way, they are learning the soccer skills, teamwork, and sportsmanship. "The recreational programs at TBU are the building blocks for children to develop on and off the soccer field," he says, "This builds a team camaraderie and the children get exercise, mentorship and learn the skills of the game." Recreation program games are held in the north at Ed Radice Park and in the south at Monroe Middle School and the teams are mostly coached by parent coaches.

Once the kids reach ages 7 or 8, families can choose whether they will remain in a recreation program, or sign up for the Futures program. Based on the kids' desire and talent, families may decide to sign them up for competitive soccer. The Futures program is a bridge from the recreational to the competitive side of TBU. With professional coaching, says Slagle, "This is an enhancement to learn more skills and to perfect those skills under the guidance of soccer professionals."

Kids can also decide to stay with the recreational program and it's a great way for older kids to stay with the game even if they pursue other activities. Kids from ages 5 to 19 can find teams to play recreational soccer. From the point of view parents and coaches, Slagle adds, "There is not much better than to go out and watch young children having a blast chasing around the soccer field on a spring evening."

The Competitive programs take kids through the Futures and Recreational programs to the Academy for ages 8 and 9 and the US Soccer Development Academy for ages 12 and 13. TBU's Competitive program, for kids from ages 10 to 19, is one of the most successful in the state of Florida.

Slagle notes that coaches have a passion to share their knowledge of the game: "Coaches of all levels enjoy watching players learn, develop athletically and as people in all youth sports including soccer. I tell coaches to enjoy the ride and impart your wisdom but, more importantly, your enthusiasm for the sport you love. Enthusiasm, probably, has a bigger impact on the children that are being coached than even the skill and tactical development. If coaches are loving it and having a good time then the players will love it and have a good time."

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