Recreation Authority votes to provide soccer as fall sport

Published 6:15 pm Friday, March 17, 2017

The Bainbridge-Decatur County Recreation Authority voted at its meeting Thursday to provide soccer to youth this fall.

“It gives us an opportunity to offer another sport for the kids, and I think there is a need for it,” Recreation Authority Executive Director Al Kelley said.

A presentation from Fernando Tiacuati, the executive director of the Toluca Atlanta Soccer Academy, raised the question on why there weren’t any competitive soccer leagues in Southwest Georgia.

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Tiacuati and the staff at Toluca Academy requested to be involved in a private league in Bainbridge. Local coaches affiliated with the academy would help develop local players who are eager to compete at an advanced level. Tiacuati also requested to use the Bill Reynolds Sports fields via the authority’s recently approved facilities use policy.

Toluca Academy would work in conjunction with the soccer program offered from the Recreation Authority.

“We have been asked by a lot of people in the community to offer something,” Kelley said. “As an authority, we feel like we should meet the needs of the community.”

The community’s soccer needs were explained by Pete Emmons, founder of the Bainbridge Elite private soccer club. The team has been around for a year, with more than a hundred kids participating.

“There is a tremendous need for a competitive soccer program for our youth,” Emmons said. “The Y does a good job from 3-4 years old to when you’re about 14, but when you hit 14, that’s it. That’s a big problem, because now kids are sitting around saying, ‘What do I do?’”

Bainbridge Elite’s 18-year-old and 16-year-old teams went to the Dothan Peanut Capital Cup last year, and both teams won. Bainbridge Elite plays in tournaments all over Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Cost was the driving force behind Emmons creating the club. Private leagues were too expensive, so Emmons started one with the help of area coaches, charging players on a per-tournament basis.

Emmons said the amount of interest and talent not playing on Bainbridge middle school or high school soccer teams warranted the competitive league.

Recreation Authority Chairman Jeff Findley said overwhelming requests from community members like Emmons was the driving force for approving soccer as a fall sport.

“We are happy to be able to do that and look forward to this fall when the kids will play soccer at Bill Reynolds Sports Park,” Findley said.