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Powerhouse Chargers Soccer Club Gets a Kick Out of Professionally Coaching Youth of Various Ages and Abilities

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Two existing soccer clubs that started in the 1970s merged nearly four years ago to form the powerhouse Chargers Soccer Club, making it one of Florida's largest such clubs. Serving the Tampa Bay area, the Club has programs for various ages and abilities. Teaching young players from ages 4 to 18 is what this organization does. "Working with children, our coaches get to see the fun and 'ah ha' moments on the faces of our youth players, as they constantly learn something new," describes Business Director Kathleen Shelton.

Featuring multiple soccer programs in 3 Bay Area communities (Tampa, Clearwater & Lakewood Ranch) and tournaments that focus on a player's development rather than just winning matches is one way this nonprofit Club is unique. Their Premier Sports Campus facility, located in Lakewood Ranch, is another. This facility has 22 fields on over 140 acres of land where the Club runs popular tournaments such as their annual Labor Day tournaments.

Although not held this year, TOPSSoccer is a national program for females and males ages 8 to 22 with mental or physical disabilities. These players are part of U.S. Youth Soccer. "It is a labor-intensive program that needs an energetic coordinator, corporate sponsorship and many volunteers and without all of those things in place, it is a very difficult task to accomplish," explains Shelton. "We hope we will be able to have the program back in the near future," she continues. "Seeing the joy on the faces of the participating children is priceless!"

Shelton mentions that, although all their member programs are wonderful, if she had to highlight just one program that sets this Club apart, it would be the full U.S. Soccer Development Academy program sanctioned by U.S. Soccer, as no other club in the region has this full program. U.S. Soccer is rolling out a program for females late next year.

"U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy to provide a high level of education, resources and support to impact everyday club environments that will develop world-class players," Shelton tells us. Players chosen for this program may someday play on a U.S. National Team, a college team or on a professional level, which brings the Club a higher degree of professional instructors to up their game.

Shelton sums up the Chargers Soccer Club best: "No matter which level the player chooses to play, they are being taught about friendship, teamwork, integrity, honesty, dedication, commitment, hard work and discipline. Our coaches are striving to help make each player the best person they can be through all of those key principles- all terrific life lessons."

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