New soccer program will develop young players

Competitive Space Coast United soccer player Beau Palumbo is happy to be back on the field after the long winter break.

The Space Coast United Soccer Club already boasts one of the most successful competitive programs in the state.

It’s about to become even better.

The new season is kicking off with 800 players at the competitive level and 2,000 in the overall program. A new All-Star program is set to launch March 1 for younger players looking to improve their skills before joining the boys and girls competition teams.

“Prior to the All-Star program, if you had a young child who was in the age groups of U7, U8 or U9, you had one choice — play rec soccer,” said Hugh Cousins, the SCU’s director of Recreational Divisions.

“The All-Star program is like a bridge program for a player to introduce them to how the structure and the coaching and the format — everything you would do — if you’re going to play comp at U9s.

“It prepares you, rather than to take a player who has only learned from a rec coach and throwing you to the wolves when you play U9.”

Whereas U7 and U8 rec league games are played in a 4 vs. 4 player format with a small net, players in the All-Star program will play 7 vs. 7 and learn more about the game.

Ultimately, that will help make the SCU competitive teams better than they are now while continuing to grow the game locally.

“To me, the big benefit and my main focus is to really develop their execution when they play,” Cousins said. “(We want to) make them better at all the things they’re going to be asked to do — dribbling, being comfortable on the ball, passing and receiving and striking of the ball — where normally, they don’t have that here.”

Scott Armstrong, the executive director of coaching at SCU and director of the Senior Division, called it a “great program. We’re very excited about it. It’s a program no other club is offering.”

Whereas some clubs might try to hand-pick players for an opportunity like this, Cousins said he wouldn’t turn away a player because, for instance, they can’t dribble yet.

“When I run my rec program, there are only two things I worry about: Is it safe? And are they having fun?” Cousins said. “In this other program, you still want those same two things, but the focus now is to develop the child. It’s to push the child a little more. He’s able to be pushed. That’s why he’s probably in that program.”

To register for the new All-Star program, go to spacecoastsoccer.org. Questions about the program can be directed to Cousins by email at rec@spacecoastsoccer.org.

On the competitive side, the SCU is expected to field another group of strong teams expected to make their mark at the state level and national, too.

The Florida Cup is scheduled for Viera Regional Park in May.

“We’re playing at a high level,” Armstrong said. “The boys were in an ECNL showcase (last month), the biggest in the country. … We’re excited. All of our teams are very successful. And we’re well-known in the state.”