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FC Columbia County builds for the future

Recently-formed soccer clubs hope to feed high local school system with more experienced and competitive players


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Darren Irwin-coached FC Columbia County U12 team took second in a recent tournament in Longview, Wa. Dave Ward's U13 boys team also took second. There are four recently-formed youth teams from Columbia County competing. The yearly exodus of Columbia County’s top soccer talent to Portland may finally be at an end. That is the goal of soccer coach Simon Date, the England-born head girls coach at St. Helens High School and club director for the Scappoose Soccer club.

What Date and a number of other coaches from around the area hope to create is a stronger soccer culture in the county that will feed the high school programs and change from the days when a program simply relies on one star to carry them for a few years before falling back into mediocrity.

“It’s not just a case of winning season to season, we have to have a longer term program,” said Date, who coaches the U14 girls team. “Right now, the kids that are coming into the high school program aren’t ready.”

Date said that lack of preparedness wasn’t the fault of any one thing, but multiple different factors stemming from the fact that Scappoose and St. Helens are both in a rural part of Oregon. Less than adequate facilities, coaches who were “super enthusiastic, but not at a standard” and a lack of a club in the area forces kids who have the talent and the motivation to drive into Portland to pursue club soccer.

That mix drove Date to start FC Columbia County, which is now nearing the end of it’s second season and fields four teams from the U14 level down to U11. The idea is to expand the club into the lower age groups, getting younger kids started playing at a high level so that they are more advanced by the time they reach the high school programs.

As the name of the club suggests, Date wants to bring Scappoose and St. Helens together to form an environment where kids can participate in “next level soccer” for the betterment of soccer culture in the area. Fully-licensed coaches and the opportunity to play soccer year round is something that the Columbia County hasn’t had in the past, and the endgame goes beyond the immediate result of the ability for kids to play outside of the fall season.

“If we can elevate soccer all over the county, then we start having a viable product in high school,” said Date. “Hopefully these kids will go off to college and play to earn scholarships. I think when you phrase it like that, and you talk to parents about it... it’s about elevating the whole program. It’s gonna take three or four years, but you have to start with the younger kids, and that’s what this FC Columbia County thing is all about.”

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