Royal Palm Beach’s youth football and soccer leagues reported successful seasons at a Recreation Advisory Board meeting Monday.
Mike Wallace, president of Wildcats Pop Warner Football, said the league’s competitive football and cheerleading teams had several league firsts, although the number of participants in both programs has dropped.
The league had $10,000 in the bank at the finish of the past season. “We are extremely solvent, which is outstanding for us,” Wallace said.
The league fielded seven teams with 180 players. “That’s down slightly from the past,” he said. “Cheerleading was down significantly.”
All four playoff-eligible football teams went to post-season play. “That has never happened in the history of the Wildcats, so we’re extremely proud of that,” Wallace said. “Our Junior Midget team went to the playoffs, and they actually won the Treasure Coast Football Conference. We’ve never done that before.”
The league had three cheer teams, two of which were non-competitive. The competitive Midgets team took first place in the Treasure Coast Football Conference cheer competition in their age group for the first time, and also won the overall competition.
The team went on to regional competition, where it also took first place. At nationals, it took third. “[These are] things that the Wildcats have never done before, so we’re extremely proud of our kids,” Wallace said.
Wallace pointed out that the Pop Warner program requires the participants to do well in school. “Our kids are student-athletes, and they are students first,” he said.
Wallace said the league has had issues with the lights and field maintenance at Seminole Palms Park. The fields are owned by the county but maintained by the village. The fields are also heavily used by other athletic leagues during the week.
He said that before practice and games, he frequently has to fill potholes in the fields. “That becomes very dangerous to a kid when he’s running,” Wallace said.
Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio said the fields are difficult to maintain because of the heavy daily use by other people and organizations. “It’s not going to be an easy task, but we’ll do whatever we can,” Recchio said.
Wallace also asked whether an additional field could be made available at night.
Board Member Sean Fitzpatrick asked whether an additional field could be lighted, and Recchio said he has a lease agreement with the county for use of the fields and that he tried to pursue grant money to light an additional field. The grant is not allowed if the village does not own the field, but the county has indicated that it might have grant money for lights.
Board Chair Shenoy Raghuraj asked Recchio whether he could reach out to area schools, which have several of the fields during the day, and see if they could allocate one for the league. Recchio said that might work.
Royal Palm Beach Strikers Soccer President Mal Hasan said that his league also had a successful fall season.
“We have gone through the past three years, which will be six seasons, where our numbers continue to increase,” Hasan said.
For the spring season, the league tried something different and allowed teams that register by Jan. 15 to request their own practice times. “From what we have been able to see, our numbers so far are what they were for the end of the fall season, and we still have three weeks for registration, which means this will be another record-setting season,” he said.
Hasan added that the recent restructuring of the program has enabled it to focus more on the younger age groups. “We offer a recreation program, a recreation all-star program and a competitive program,” he said.
The league eliminated the competitive program from 13-year-olds and up so that it can concentrate on ages under 9 through under 12. “We’d like our competitive teams to be created and built from our recreation program,” Hasan said. “The days of bringing in outside teams from other clubs or going out club shopping — those days are over. If you are not involved with our program, or you are not from our village, we really don’t have an interest in you being a part of our competitive program.”
He said board members had discussed increasing the age divisions for recreational soccer because high school-age boys who want to continue to play must go to other clubs.
“They have no option but to go elsewhere,” Hasan said. “I’m a boys soccer coach over at Royal Palm Beach High School. I conduct my practices, and it’s a little heartbreaking seeing all the kids on the practice field in competing clubs’ uniforms simply because they don’t have a place to play over here.”
The league, which has about 700 participants, currently has about $35,000 in its savings account, about $40,000 in its recreational account and $12,000 in its competitive account.
“Things are going well financially, and it allows us to continue to upgrade our equipment, and to continue to provide good-quality uniforms and trophies for all the participants,” Hasan said.