When Tim Storch was first hired to coach high school soccer in Alpena early last summer, one of his big points of emphasis was growing and developing the youth program.
With registration set to begin for the Thunderbay Soccer Association, it's clear Storch's vision is beginning to take shape.
Flyers for the upcoming sign-ups, which run Thursday and Friday from 5:30-7 p.m. at the APlex, and again on March 29-30 at the same time and place, reveal the addition of clinics for players and coaches, along with the normal regular season for children between the ages of 4-18. A new 3-year-old division also is being introduced. The cost is $60 per player.
"Obviously, the youth program is the foundation for anything that happens, whether it's travel or high school teams," said Storch, who coached the Alpena boys team last fall and has taken over the girls program this spring as well. "This is our house and we need to have a strong foundation. I'd love to see soccer become something that grows in this community."
Numbers for TBSA have fluctuated over the years, according to league president Jodi Nash, but the program has been affected a bit in the last few years by the loss of population base in Alpena due to a poor economy in Michigan.
"When you see the numbers are down in schools, it affects the program. It's hit or miss any season, but we usually have between 200-300 kids per season," said Nash.
Thunderbay Soccer Association Sign-ups
When:?Thursday and Friday, plus March 29-30 from 5:30- 7 p.m.
Cost: $60 per player
The arrival of Storch and his ideas to build up TBSA have certainly been welcomed by the league.
"I met with him before he was even hired as the high school coach," Nash said. "How can you let a guy with his knowledge and experience go by without helping your program out? Bringing someone like Tim in brings a new oomph that gets everyone going again."
The plan is for Storch and his high school players to lead clinics during the spring season that will help players and coaches alike. Players will get an opportunity to improve skill development while learning from some of the high school players they might see on the field at Wildcat Stadium.
"A lot of kids look up to the high school players, so it's great," Nash said.
At the same time, the demand for coaches is always high, and Nash and Storch think some potential candidates who are raw on experience or aren't confident enough to coach might emerge from the clinics.
"He and his staff can help coaches who don't know the game of soccer and show them how easy it is to get involved," Nash said.
"Hopefully we can help alleviate those fears (of not knowing the game)," said Storch.
The benefits of working with the youth program are obvious for Storch's high school teams, but he also thinks it helps other coaches in other sports as well.
"The end product of kids playing sports at a young age is it's habit forming. They're more likely to play in high school and that benefits all coaches in all programs," said Storch. "It benefits (football coach) Jason Dubey, (boys basketball coach) John Pintar, (volleyball coach) Melissa Doubek and (girls basketball coach) Jenny Poli."