“I shot the ball and it almost went over the net, and it went in just good.” That is the best memory that Joselyn Waggoner has over the past year playing for her 9-U soccer team the “Salem Shooters.”
Jocelyn is just one of thousands of children in Utah, who over the last five years have been part of a surge of soccer players. And it isn’t just in the club level that is seeing this surge; it is also at the City Recreation level.
Eliza Hoffman the youth sports coordinator in Provo said, “Our soccer program has literally doubled in the last ten years, with 1000 kids joining in the last five years.”
According to Hoffman, five years ago there were only about 1000 kids playing in the fall and this season there were over 1600 kids that played, with thousands more planning on playing in the spring.
As far as other sports, the participation has not seen the same rise in involvement. “Team sports like basketball, baseball and football have remained pretty similar,” Hoffman continued. These sports have seen similar numbers year to year.
Many credit the population growth in the Provo area to the increase in soccer participation, however statistics say otherwise. Since 2013, the Provo/Springville population has only increased by 2.3 percent, whereas according to Hoffman’s numbers Rec Center participation has gone up 22 percent.
As far as club soccer’s increase, there are well over 200 club teams in Utah, which is more than any other sports league in the state. Many of the teams are teams like Jocelyn’s 9-U Salem Shooters team which was not a team until last year.
Families here in Utah aren’t the only ones being affected though. Greg McClaughlin moved from an area near Manchester England four years ago to come and help kids here in Utah. He said, “[I am] just here trying to improve the level of the teams we have here.”
McClaughin mentioned to me that if he came ten years ago he would not have found work, but today he has no problems at all finding teams he can train.