By Barney Blakeney
Ebony City Soccer Club, better known as the Lil Peles, this year completed 36 years in existence as one of the oldest youth soccer programs in the state. The club in 2017 continued to provide youth an alternative to traditional sports activities like football, basketball and baseball.
Again this year the program developed teams of players from the City of Charleston and surrounding areas of North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Awendaw, Ladson and Summerville targeting underserved youths who have the interest in learning soccer, known worldwide as fútbol, which is the world’s most popular sport game.
The program, conducted year-round, started the 2017 season competing in the South Carolina Soccer Association’s Coastal Region with teams in the 8 year-old to 14 year-old bracket. Part of the competition included developmental preparation teaching basic skills in small teams consisting of program participants who competed against each other. Another phase of the competition included competing against the teams of other local programs.
None of the program’s activities could be conducted without talented coaches, said Head Coach Vincent Ashby. Among them were Itress Jenkins, Brandon Bailey, Ajay Sood, Nicole Ashby, Vincent Ashby, Crystal Matherson and Niesha Nelson Bligen. It’s important to note all the coaches volunteer their time teaching soccer skills in addition to a culture of teamwork and the spirit of ‘Harambe’ (working together).
The program also provided special activities for players that included water safety during summer camp, cultural enrichment activities such as participating in local parades and the Moja Arts Festival and the Player Recognition Awards Program. Parents were engaged and asked to take health walks during practice sessions. The fall initiative included a collaborative at North Charleston Elementary School that engaged 27-30 students in grades 2-5 who learned soccer skills in the school’s gym.
Coach Vincent Ashby said this year’s season was dedicated to Avery and Aiyden Martin. For information about Ebony City Soccer Club, go to their website at ebonycitysoccerclub.com.