Date: Fri 28-May-1999
It's Baaaaack! The Annual Kickoff Is This Weekend
BY STEVE BIGHAM
Question: What is coming to Newtown this weekend that has 3,400 powerful legs,
3,400 hands that are practically useless, an affinity for open fields, and an
intensely competitive attraction to a small white ball?
Answer: The Newtown Soccer Club's 17th Annual Kickoff Tournament.
Nearly 1,700 young soccer players (and another 1,000 or so parents) are
expected to converge on Newtown for this weekend annual monster soccer
tourney. A total of 103 teams will be competing in the Memorial Day weekend
event, including 92 teams from out-of-state. The 11 Newtown teams alone are
made up of 175 players. More than 200 games will be played over the three-day
tournament, which is open to boys and girls ages 10-14.
An already busy holiday weekend in Newtown always seems to get a little busier
due to the tournament.
The tournament is run entirely by parent volunteers. Co-directors Joanne
Shpunt and Kim Weber say the tournament would not happen if not for the
hundreds of parent volunteers, like longtime adviser Pat Barczak, who donate
their time welcoming teams, selling hot dogs or just simply making sure the
tournament runs smoothly. And, for the most part, it has over the years. The
tournament takes place after nearly a year of planning. There is a formula
which calls for a tight schedule of more than 300 games, lots of referees
(three per game and some do 6-7 games a day) and a commitment to playing even
in lousy weather conditions.
"You play unless it is absolutely unplayable," noted Alan Helfer, president of
the Newtown Soccer Club.
There is an almost Olympic-like atmosphere to the Memorial Day tournament each
year as soccer teams from all over the tri-state area arrive in town. A dozen
different fields are used for the event which begins at 8 am Saturday and
continues through late Sunday afternoon. In case of rain, some games may have
to be made up on Monday. Each team is guaranteed to play three games in this
round robin format. Those who qualify move on to the playoff round where the
competition heats up. Several returning championship teams return this year,
including three from Newtown.
Many of the teams stay at hotels during the tournament.
"I got a call from one team this week looking for a place that would take
dinner reservations for 40," Kim Weber said.
Back in 1983, 32 teams competed in the tournament which was co-directed by Dan
Carson and Tim O'Connell. Like the sport of soccer itself, the Memorial Day
tournament has grown steadily since then.
Once again this year, the tournament will encompass the far reaches of the
town with matches being held at Newtown High School (three fields), the middle
school (two fields), Treadwell Park (two fields), Fairfield Hills (two
fields), St Rose School, Hawley School and Walnut Tree (one field each).
Newtown's lack of field space does not go unnoticed in this tournament and
several teams had to be turned away because there simply were not enough
For more information, call Joanne Shpunt at 426-3341 (work) or 426-8567