By Matt de Simone Contributing writer
Good news for Botetourt County youth soccer players looking to advance their competition to an elite level: the Virginia Blue Ridge Star Soccer Club is here. Since 1986, the VBR Soccer Club has developed youth soccer players of the highest level in the Roanoke Valley giving young players an alternative route to compete at the highest level and develop a healthy lifestyle. Recently, Executive Director Danny Beamer helped expand the program to Botetourt County. The VBR Youth Soccer Academy currently consists of 25 boys and girls ranging from 8-10 years of age including a 13- and 14-year-old girls’ team as well as a U-11 and U-12 team for the boys.
The nonprofit organization designed the club to not only better educate the youth about the game, but also provide the players with adequate training facilities and other programs to ensure local soccer athletes train to compete at the highest levels. Director of Coaching and Player Development Chris McClellan is excited about the expansion.
“We’ve run programs [in Botetourt] for about seven or eight years,” McClellan explained. “Our goal is to build a technical foundation so that the young players will want to continue to play as they get older.”
Another focus of VBR Star – Botetourt is convenience. In the past, local soccer players had to travel across town to practice and/or play club matches. VBR Stars want their athletes to train close to home which helps bring more of a community-oriented aspect to the program. Due to the newer sports complexes in the Botetourt area, giving local club members a chance to train a few miles away makes their development easier on the families involved and on their gas mileage.
“There are so many families moving to the Botetourt area. The youth numbers are extremely strong. We’ve seen a lot of quality in the athletics and expanded the age range of the Academy in order to keep [young athletes] in the system for a long time,” McClellan said. He went on to mention that local families and the recreational department helped immensely in the expansion recruiting other kids and families to take part in the program.
A local club team also has the potential to raise the level of play for local high school soccer programs. Due to the success of Lord Botetourt High School’s boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, VBR Stars’ administration saw that expanding the club was necessary due to the amount of Stars who went on to play for their respective schools’ teams.
James Corring has seen the development of local talent first hand. His time coaching at Read Mountain Middle School developed a boys’ club team which in part spawned the Youth Academy that continues to develop local talent. “Ultimately, VBR Star – Botetourt wants to build soccer,” Corring explained. “Soccer in Botetourt is great. We’ve shown a lot of promise. Our real goal is getting kids outside and playing in a competitive nature but, in reality, you just want to see the kids having fun with their friends while also competing, working, and growing as young adults.”
Botetourt County resident Jim Lane has spent the last 25 years developing youth soccer players in the Roanoke Valley. He saw his children grow up playing soccer and continued to help other youth soccer players have the chance to enjoy the game. Lane mentioned that “Botetourt County is changing. It’s becoming much more diverse. Education levels are improving. All that bodes well for soccer.”
Lane has seen firsthand what the influence of soccer has done for his former players as they’ve started to return to the Roanoke Valley and have children of their own who want to learn the game. “One of the investments [VBR Star – Botetourt] made is in the form of the Youth Academy,” Lane continued, “We think that if we can expose kids [to soccer] at an early age, they’ll be hooked. Kids like to run and kick things.”
VBR Star – Botetourt recently held tryouts for boys and girls ages 10-14 at Greenfield Park. Those selected will continue their training and development in the VBR Star program over the course of the 2019-2020 season.
For more information about the VBR Star Soccer Club, visit www.vbrstar.com.