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This Week’s LION: Mike Sherman – Soccer Visionary

Soccer has been continually growing in popularity among young people, and one of the reasons may be people like Mike Sherman. A native of Watsontown, Mike played high school soccer at Warrior Run High School, and then went on to play for Penn State-Hazelton, where he made All-Conference as a forward. Going to main campus Penn State at State College, he put athletics aside to concentrate on his bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. His grandparents had a farm, and he always enjoyed animals growing up. Mike got into the cattle industry after graduating and eventually found his way into government work. Today he works for the US Department of Agriculture as the executive director for the Farm Service Agency in Lycoming County.

But he never lost the soccer itch. He married his high school sweetheart Vanessa, and they had three sons; Owen, who is now 11, Dylan, age 8, and Weston, age 6. He taught them all to play soccer at a young age and endeavored to get them involved in a league. Like many things, if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself, so five years ago Mike became a coach with the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).

AYSO is more than just a sports league. It has a focus in sportsmanship with the ultimate goal of creating a fun, family-friendly environment where the child can grow and develop not only their soccer skills but their leadership and social skills for life. Mike Sherman is a shining example of the everything AYSO stands for. After coaching for three years, he took over as regional director for the Montgomery PA AYSO. With the sincere commitment of several other parents, an amazing improvement of play developed these past couple of years, including some impressive tournament wins.

But perhaps more than just the winning is the enthusiasm that Mike is generating. This is a man that is always looking for a better way to do everything, including the field his teams play on. While attending a Clinton Township Supervisor meeting in March of this year, he heard one of the supervisors comment on the need for improving the local park. Mike knew there was a basketball court that was not being utilized, and he had a crazy idea. He had watched indoor soccer on television, and wondered why the same concept could not be done outdoors? In fact, it seemed like it was exactly what younger kids would need to develop their skills. They would increase their touches on the ball, spend less time chasing after it when it would go out-of-bounds, and also learn more about teamwork.

After conducting some research, Mike presented to the supervisors at their next meeting the idea of converting the abandoned basketball court to an outdoor soccer practice field, and they bought into it. Mike had lined up a vendor for the synthetic turf, but he knew he needed more than a playing surface. He sat down with a Mennonite contractor on redesigning the basketball court for soccer play. It meant having fiberglass panels braced by the chain-link fence, as well as built-in goals and other special features. To Mike’s knowledge, no one had done this before, so he had to design it all in his mind. The contractor had never even seen a soccer game, so this was like the blind leading the blind.

Amazingly, it all came together. The township cooperated in preparing the area around the court for bleachers, spare scrap pieces were found here, and there that seemed to just fit exactly right, and after some hard work by the volunteers, the final result is an incredible venue for youth soccer for Montgomery. And the timing could not be much better, as they are about to begin a camp featuring several professional soccer players as trainers from the Harrisburg Heat, a team that is part of the Major Arena Soccer League. All this has culminated in an enthusiastic 53 youngsters signed up for the camp. Mike Sherman embodies the words of the legendary coach Paul (Bear) Bryant, “Show class, have pride and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself.”

More information about the field and the teams can be found on their Facebook page; Montgomery PA AYSO.

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