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Volunteers making soccer tourney go

Jul. 04, 2010 @ 12:25 AM

BARBOURSVILLE — This week, Kheng Yap-McGuire has lived out a famous passage from a Charles Dickens novel during the US Youth Soccer Region I Championships.

It has been the best of times. It has been the worst of times.

For Yap-McGuire, the tournament’s volunteer coordinator, the best of times includes having more than 400 volunteers at her disposal. The worst of times would be trying to fit each person into a time slot in which they are available.

No matter what the scenario, though, this tale of two cities has been the same.

Whether in Barboursville or in Huntington, everyone has come out to support the tournament.

“This is an area where people like to volunteer and it certainly was an honor for me to be asked to be volunteer recruiter,” Yap-McGuire said. “We are helping bring in millions of dollars, and it’s not just for Huntington — it’s from Grayson (Ky.) to Charleston and Gallipolis (Ohio). All of our volunteers stepped up and a lot of them are not just soccer families.”

In talking to those from other states, the same characteristic stands out each time they speak about West Virginia — the people.

Chris Branscome, the chief executive officer for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, is in town taking in the tournament in preparations for the Region I tourney’s move to Lancaster, Pa., in 2011.

He said that the friendliness and helpful nature of the people is one aspect his association hopes to emulate from the tournament’s two years in West Virginia.

“The hospitality, the volunteers, the personal touches they’ve tried to put on things here,” Branscome said. “This tournament has been going on for a long time so the logistics will happen the same, but we are also focusing on how to make it better. That personal touch is one of the key elements that West Virginia has put into that.”

No matter which soccer complex a team or family travels to for a contest, there is always someone in a yellow shirt and “captain’s hat” there to show them the way with a smile.

Part of the beauty of the tournament was also the close-knit family feel that showed its presence — the same family feel that West Virginia has become known for in the last two years.

Len Rogers, the president of the West Virginia Soccer Association, brought his entire family to the fields on Saturday, including his parents, wife and son.

And for the second-straight year, Scott Miller has gotten his entire family involved to help make the tournament a success as well. His wife is in charge of food for volunteers and his twin sons have also been helping out with various tasks.

“My family and some of the members off our travel team have put in countless days the last two years preparing for this tournament,” Miller said. “It’s really not days or hours, it’s months.

“It’s about the satisfaction of helping this state know that we put our best foot forward to host a tournament of this size. All in all, this is a great representation of the pride of West Virginia.”

Yap-McGuire said that while many volunteers signed up well in advance of the tournament, she also had many walk up during the day and ask how they could help.

On the first day, a 12-year-old boy stayed for two shifts after his mother had e-mailed Yap-McGuire and said he wanted to help. On Saturday, a 14-year-old from Connecticut also came offering her assistance.

“It’s just wonderful to see the younger generation step up and say that volunteering is what they want to do,” Yap-McGuire said.

Rogers said that those wanting to volunteer can still do so by coming to the main gate and letting someone know they are interested.

The tournament runs through Tuesday’s championships.

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