Photo of the original 2003 Shrub Oak Legends, courtesy of Sportography. Rebecca Sitzer is in the middle row on far left.
By Randy Vogt
July 25, 2014-You can go home again, especially in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA).
At the turn of the millennium, 5-year-old Rebecca Sitzer of Yorktown Heights and a group of friends started playing intramural soccer on the back fields of a nearby elementary school in the Shrub Oak Athletic Club. After she turned eight, Rebecca told her dad Mike that she and her friends wanted to play more competitive soccer. This was at a time when Shrub Oak had 225 kids in intramurals and 70 travel team players. So her father, along with Eugene Burke and Rick Maurno, started the Shrub Oak Legends travel team to play Under-9 within the East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL).
Rebecca also played on the East Hudson Academy teams for two years, refining her skills and playing tournaments with selected players from around the region. Rebecca stayed with the Legends through their Under-14 season. She made the varsity team at Lakeland High School as a freshman, and was captain for two years. At the club level, Rebecca moved on to the Poughkeepsie Hot Shots at Under-15, a Division 1 and Premier team, and played for the Hot Shots for three years.
But while she was gone, things at Shrub Oak started to change. Travel teams started underneath the Legends in every age group as the soccer program increased in size. The squad directly below Rebecca's had gone premier, and by the time Rebecca was a senior in high school, there were 550 players in Shrub Oak’s intramural program and 300 travel team players and the oldest of the teams was still the Legends. Not only had the name lived on, but in the spring of 2012, as she graduated from Lakeland High School, there were still eight of the players she had played with at Under-12, including two that had been there in the original Under-9 team.
Rebecca went to college out of state and did not think much about playing anymore.
Dan Kelly, the head coach of the Legends since Under-12, had not only kept the team going after his first captain left the club, but filled the team with some younger players. In 2013, the last of the Under-12 team players graduated from high school, and Dan thought, that although there was still a team, the Legends were done.
But Rebecca wasn't done as an original Legend had moved back to Yorktown Heights. She missed soccer and called her former coach in the fall of 2013. Rebecca was turning 19 in November, and both of them thought that with the age difference between her and the youngest players on the team, it might be uncomfortable to come back as a player.
So Rebecca became an assistant coach of the Legends, helped the girls become better players and leaders plus worked with them through the winter and early spring tournament season. But as time wore on, Rebecca ("Mom" to the players) kept stepping on the field more and more in scrimmages. She truly missed the game in her almost two years off from playing.
When tournament season ended, Dan invited her back to play. “Mom” played two regular season games with the now Girls-Under-19 Legends before an injury made her miss the end of the season. Yet she was able to finish her youth playing career on July 19 and 20 at the Hudson Invitational Tournament, right where she started––center midfielder of the Shrub Oak Legends. Rebecca Sitzer had truly come home.
With 123,843 youth soccer players––68,587 boys and 55,256 girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 12 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Special Children. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.
Photo of Rebecca Sitzer dribbling as a Girls-Under-19 Shrub Oak Legend.