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Chester Upland Youth Soccer Saturdays are back

After a year of running online-only programs, Chester Upland Youth Soccer brought back their popular Soccer Saturday program last month

Matt Ralph

Soccer Saturdays are back in Chester.

After 12 months of running programs online, Chester Upland Soccer returned to proper outdoor soccer with their popular Soccer Saturday program last month.

“It’s getting back out here on a nice day in spring and seeing the kids happy and having fun,” said Amanda Anakitis, one of the coach/mentors who plays for Penn Fusion and Strath Haven said after a recent session at Chester Park. “The kids are so happy when they’re playing you’re having fun with them, it’s like you’re not even coaching them.”

Separated into two age groups, kids wearing masks dotted the field playing small-sided games and working on various drills with area coaches and players on a recent Saturday morning. The Philadelphia Union also had representatives on hand offering games and prizes.

“This is the first sport he wanted to try,” said Theresa Vicks as she watched her son Julian Byrd from the sidelines, snapping photos and videos with her phone. “He loves it; I’m happy. I just like to see him out running around with kids and wanting to participate. They’re home doing virtual school, he’s not able to be around other students like this.”

After shutting down the program last March, Chester Upland Soccer was able to continue offering programs to kids online through the fall but it was always a temporary solution. Kids in the program were given uniforms and soccer balls and held practices with their coaches online, but keeping kids engaged also presented some challenges.

“It means everything to be outside, to be back out with their friends, to be with the coaches and mentors we have,” said Paul Stinson, who is the head coach at Bryn Mawr. “That’s the whole point that these kids get out on the field, enjoy the benefits of being healthy, getting exercise, being social again.”

With many of the program’s volunteer coaches and mentor participation limited because of Covid-19 protocols on local college campuses, Stinson along with coaches and players from The Haverford School and Strath Haven High School have chipped in to help run the program.

Volunteers from Amachi Chester and the Delco Iotas have also helped out along with local educators from Chester Upland School District, The Chester Charter Scholars Academy and Chester Community Charter School, who serve as site directors for CUYS. Books that players can take home with them have been donated by the Kara Barnard Fund for Youth Literacy, athletic apparel has been donated by Good Sports and groceries are provided each week by Chester Eastside Inc., delivered by Family & Community Service of Delaware County (FCSDC).

“The biggest reason to play sports as a kid is to be part of a team and have teammates,” said Oliver Steinglass, program manager for Chester Upland Youth Soccer. “Over the computer that is impossible so to have that piece back is huge.”

Soccer Saturdays will be offered through May and resume again in the fall. For more information about the program and how you can support their efforts in Chester, visit cuys.org.