GOSHEN — On March 3, the Goshen Youth Soccer Organization had to make a very difficult decision for the community.
Nearly a year removed from canceling the 2020 spring season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GYSO announced on its website that, for the second year in a row, a season wouldn’t be played.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that we will not be having a GYSO season again this spring,” the statement said. “We hoped the coronavirus would be better controlled by now, but too much uncertainty remains. Although we greatly love soccer and enjoy having everyone out there playing, we also greatly love our community and want to do our part in keeping everyone safe. Having 200 players and their families at GYSO every night proved too much to plan for.”
In a normal year, over 600 area kids in grades kindergarten through eighth grade take part in the spring season.
The idea of yet another youth soccer campaign being wiped out didn’t sit right with Goshen Stars Club Team president Millard Graber. In an attempt to avoid the area’s youth missing out on competitive soccer once again, Graber reached out to Tavi Mounsithiraj — a board member of GYSO and owner of Goshen Soccer Academy — about putting together a plan to offer a youth league that’d be split up between the Goshen Stars and GSA facilities.
“For this year only, we decided to setup basically a hybrid league to allow kids to continue to play recreational soccer in the spring,” Mounsithiraj said. “There’s a lot of people interested in doing things over the spring. It’s just an opportunity for the kids to play the sport that they love that they haven’t gotten to play in two years.”
With the blessing from the GYSO board, the league will run for eight weeks, starting April 22 and ending June 10. Kids in grades kindergarten through eighth grade will be allowed to participate. Registration is $55, with the deadline to sign up being extended out to April 16.
Mounsithiraj also said that the cap for participants will be at around 250 — a number they expect to get to before registration ends — and that kindergarten through third grade will play indoor soccer at GSA, while fourth through eighth grade will be outdoors at the Goshen Stars facility.
“We completely understand the parents that feel uncomfortable about their kids playing; that’s OK,” Mounsithiraj said. “But we just wanted to create an opportunity for the one’s that do want to play. Both the GSA and the Goshen Stars follow all CDC guidelines when it comes to masks and hand sanitizing. We’re definitely not just running the league and hoping nobody gets sick, you know?”
While the older kids will play regular soccer outdoors, the younger ones will play futsal, an indoor form of soccer that features a smaller ball and only 10 players on at a time compared to 22 in soccer.
According to Mounsithiraj, futsal is a great way for younger players to get more acclimated to normal soccer before they get older.
Each team, no matter the age group, will have one practice and play one game per week.
“We do it for our community,” Mounsithiraj said. “We love to use sport as a platform for better things for some of these kids. We try our best to present the kids with the most positive environment possible. It’s priceless to see them laughing and having a good time, I’m not going to lie to you.”
GSA has been open for around two years and still managed to have enough success during the pandemic, despite extended spacing within the day-to-day schedule to allow for people to leave and others to enter without causing heavy traffic.
The academy, located at 1400 Fairfield Avenue in Goshen, offers indoor soccer for kids and adults, as well as racquetball courts. Also, for those looking to play basketball and volleyball, those courts can be rented out per hour when not in use for soccer.
“Goshen is really diverse with people who love their soccer,” Mounsithiraj said. “We’re just so thankful for that. We try to keep our pricing as reasonable as possible. Our prices for a team were $200 less than the other place in town that’s now closed. So really, we’ll be the only high-class facility in the area that people can come and play indoor soccer at. Next year, we’re looking forward to welcoming more people in.”