Soccer coach Nathan Trout recalled, with a tinge of jealousy, the four “unbelievable” sports parks in his Florida hometown, including six soccer fields.
“It’s almost embarrassing for the community to not have nice facilities for their kids,” said Trout. “I’m just surprised that there’s not a piece of land where they can build it all.”
Trout said he doesn’t understand why the county can’t accommodate athletes from multiple sports in one convenient location.
Trout, who coaches a traveling girls’ team for Carolina Mountain Soccer Club, says he’s had trouble convincing other teams to come to Haywood County.
“Here, we’re so limited,” said Trout. “Obviously, baseball is facing the same problem.”
Currently, the county has no regulation-size soccer fields, and the facilities that are around are either not well-maintained or not publicly available after hours. None of them are striped for soccer, according to soccer coach Geoff Chitea.
Not infrequently, slack mowing schedules allow grass to grow too high for play, while fields remain wet long after rainfall.
Some field owners bar access after hours due to potential liability issues, and others drag the goals off the field to specifically discourage soccer games after hours.
“They don’t want the grass messed up,” said Chitea, who likened playing soccer without goals to playing basketball without a backboard.
Both Trout and Chitea argue that developing soccer fields at the Jonathan Creek Park would benefit more people than the community realizes.
Trout estimates that 600 kids play soccer in Haywood County alone, while Chitea emphasized that adults like to play casual games all throughout the year. On most evenings and weekends, about 15 to 20 people regularly show up to play pick-up games of soccer.
“We’ve had nights during the summer where our numbers swell up to 30 people,” said Chitea.
While football and baseball enthusiasts pack up whenever their season ends, Chitea says there’s really no such thing as a soccer season.
“You see soccer players out on those fields all year long whenever the weather’s nice,” said Chitea.
Trout and Chitea said they are disappointed with the three options presented by the recreation board at the last meeting.
“Obviously, soccer really took a backstage to baseball/softball,” said Chitea. “They all look like we built a baseball facility, not a community park.”
Chitea says the multipurpose field seems more like an afterthought, with restrooms situated much closer to the baseball fields in all three options. Kids who play anything other than baseball or softball will face a much longer trek to the bathrooms.
Chitea says he does appreciate the walking trails at the park, and hopes that the multipurpose field will at least be Astroturf to allow for soccer play year-round.
Meanwhile, Trout would like to see the Haywood County community readjust its focus. Citizens placed too much stress on the park’s ability to drive revenue at the first public meeting, Trout said.
Rather than chasing athletes from other towns, the county’s primary concern should be taking care of the youth at home.
“I think there’s too much focus on worrying about tournaments and driving revenue, rather than taking care of the kids and the community that presently play here,” said Trout.