By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
May 24, 2016-With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, we decided to write about a soccer club that is as American as they come. The West Point Junior Black Knights, playing in the East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL) and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), is made up of kids from Army families and they play their games at the United States Military Academy.
“Having a soccer program on a military base is extremely challenging. The biggest challenge is not knowing how many players are returning the following year,” commented Junior Black Knights President Oneisha Staples, who is Child and Youth Services Sports and Fitness Director at the US Military Academy. “It’s hard to keep a core group of children together as the turnover rate is very high since Army families move a good deal.“
Five boys travel teams and five girls travel teams play in the EHYSL for the Junior Black Knights, whose name comes directly from the Army Black Knights collegiate teams. Additionally, there’s an intramural program that is completely coed. Just 4 U Soccer has four peewee teams, Division A Soccer has six teams of children ages 5 and 6, Division B Soccer has four teams of children ages 7 to 9 and Division A Soccer has one team of kids ages 10-13.
The Junior Black Knights play on four home fields, all at the US Military Academy: Dragon Park, H-Lot, Shea Stadium and the United States Military Academy Preparatory School.
“Playing their matches at West Point, all visiting teams receive the added bonus of seeing one of our great historical military academies. The youth soccer teams from the Junior Black Knights have been an outstanding member of our league,” explained EHYSL President Jim Purdy. “Despite the occasional mid-season turnover of coaches and players due to deployments, the club does not miss a beat as there are many great volunteers who serve.“
Club President Staples added, “Another challenge we face are tryouts. The only children allowed to play for our travel teams are children with an affiliation to West Point whereas other clubs are able to allow anyone to try out for their teams.“
Yet despite these challenges, West Point coach John Vigna received the EHYSL Girls Coach of the Year Award in 2014 and some Junior Black Knights teams are in the most competitive divisions of the EHYSL. Maybe that’s what they mean by Army strong!
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and 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 11 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 Children With Special Needs. 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.