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St. Patrick's Day Tournament keeps growing
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
There will be a different type of March Madness going on in the Fredericksburg area this weekend.
While many will be glued to their TV sets watching college basketball, more than 12,000 people will be in the area for the St. Patrick's Day youth soccer tournament tomorrow and Sunday.
The tournament has taken place for 18 years, but has grown tremendously in recent years.
There were 150 teams that participated in the event four years ago.
Tournament director Sean Rose said yesterday that 250 teams from seven different states are expected to participate this weekend.
"It's something that's been known in the area for quite a long time," Rose said. "So there's a good bit of people that plan for it on their yearly calendars."
The tournament is hosted by the Stafford Area Soccer Association, which has 3,000 kids that play in the spring and fall.
Games will be played at 10 different venues, including Dixon and Pratt parks in Fredericksburg. They'll also be played in Garrisonville, at Colonial Forge High School, at Fredericksburg Academy and in King George.
There are 34 divisions and each division has eight teams.
There's a round-robin first-round, a semifinal and a final. Rose said one of the tournament's goals is to increase the popularity of soccer, which is already the most popular youth sport in the area.
"It promotes soccer as a game in general, not just for our organization," Rose said of the tournament. "One thing people talk about in the soccer world is 'For the good of the game.' That's one of our objectives, without a doubt."
It's not an easy event to host, Rose said.
Volunteers, most of whom are parents, work year-round to make it happen.
He said they promote the tournament to area businesses so owners know to be prepared for more customers.
Volunteers also work on-site at the tournaments, selling T-shirts, making sure games start on time and instructing people where to go.
"The volunteers take pride in doing a good job, so it reflects well on the area," Rose said. "They're proud about where we live."
Rose said players range in age from 8-18.
The cost for the tournament was $525 per team for the younger teams. Older teams paid $575 because they require three referees compared with one for the younger squads.
There will be 450 games, and his year a Good Sport Most Valuable Player award will presented to each coach at the end of every contest.
The coach will then pick the opposing player who exuded the best sportsmanship and was the MVP for his or her team.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526