ST. PAULS — The way that Brent Martin looks at it, there’s plenty of room for soccer to grow in the St. Pauls community.
In the last year alone, he’s created the first girls soccer team at St. Pauls High School and brought back the boys team this fall.
The next step in helping the sport grow will start later this month when registration begins for the first season of the St. Pauls Soccer Assocation, a youth league that will cater to players ages 8 to 15.
“I just want to build a culture,” Martin said. “I want to build a tradition and I want to build tradition that will last longer than I will, you know what I mean?
“Whether I’m there or not, I want the tradition to last. If I leave next year, I want to come back in 20 years and see that St. Pauls soccer is still going on.”
The SPSA is aimed specifically at students at St. Pauls, Parkton and Rex-Rennert schools, though players from around the county are eligible to play.
Online registration starts January 20 at stpaulssoccer.com. In-person registration will be from 4 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 28 and 30 and Feb. 11 and 13 at St. Pauls High School. Games are scheduled to start the week of Feb. 24.
The inaugural year, broken into separate fall and spring seasons, will play it small and aims to field four teams in three separate age divisions. Players will be broken into teams of ages 6-8, 9-13 and 14-15. Each team will have six games and practices before a season-ending tournament. Championship games will be played under the lights at St. Pauls High School, Martin said.
Martin hopes to use the program to grow soccer on multiple levels.
Through volunteer coaches, players will receive instruction and feedback following each game. Players will also keep their jerseys and get free admission to St. Pauls High School soccer matches.
There is a $20 fee for the spring season and registered players will get to compete in the fall season for $10 more.
Short-term, Martin hopes to get the St. Pauls community involved in multiple ways. Volunteers are needed to help as coaches, referees and board members. Team sponsorship opportunities are also available.
“Anybody that wants to volunteer is welcome,” Martin said. “We’re new and we’re open to ideas.
“I’m doing this for the community, not for myself, and whatever they want to do with it, I encourage it. However they want to embrace it and make it better, I encourage it.”
Originally started as a joint effort with Robeson County Parks and Recreation, the organization will play as a SAY Soccer affiliate, which will allow the league’s teams to play with other regional affiliates in the future, such as the Pembroke Soccer Association and Scotland County SAY.
Martin said his goal with it all is to help local kids get outside.
“I want to encourage them to play soccer because it’s a sport that is worldwide,” Martin said. “Anybody can play it. The area you live in doesn’t define if you can play soccer. It’s a worldwide sport and anyone can play.”