Annandale a success since 1959
BARBOURSVILLE -- Many West Virginia soccer fans got a first-hand look at Annandale (Va.) this week when the WVSC Elite Titans U-16 Boys battled the Virginia side to a 2-2 draw.
While West Virginia is trying to build its soccer tradition to the national level, Annandale is Virginia's oldest club and most prominent program.
So what exactly will it take for a work-in-progress like West Virginia soccer to join the ranks of the Annandales of the nation and sustain success?
Annandale club president Kip Germain (also known as Everett Grant Germain, III) offered some insight as to what successes his club has seen since his father established the club in 1959.
"It takes a combination of coaching -- which with Bob Gray I'm sure is developing. It takes good fields -- complexes like this (Barboursville Soccer Complex) -- to help develop players and it takes administrators. It's amazing how important that they are," Germain said.
As a club, Annandale has seven national championships -- the only club in Virginia to boast of that success -- while also boasting of World Cup champion women's players and Clarence Goodson, a 2010 US National Team player in the World Cup. The club also has a goalkeeper with DC United and 60 players currently in college.
With such success, one might assume that Annandale is an upper-echelon club which costs big bucks to be a part of.
That isn't the case, though.
"Fundraising is a thing in itself for us," Germain said. "We've had a pretty successful fundraising program that has been in use for nearly 35 years. Because of that, our fees are still a whole lot lower than the other clubs (in our state)."
Cost of travel soccer is an important issue for many involved with the sport, and Bo Amato, Annandale's U-16 Boys coach and technical director of soccer for the club, said that it just isn't limited to smaller states.
"The problem with the game in this country is that it is going middle-class, upper-class," Amato said. "When you do that, you are going to lose some of the better athletes because they can't afford it. That's ridiculous."
With the aid of the fundraising program, the club boasts of 2,400 players for travel soccer, according to Germain, who added that it is not the largest club in the state by far.
Annandale's efforts to keep costs down on the game sticks closely with the values first brought forth when Kip's father, Everett Grant Germain, Jr., started the club more than half a century ago.
In the early 1970s, the club founder introduced the concept of billeting, where travel soccer clubs would stay with the families of the host teams to defer costs.
And the goal of the club is to not only defer costs of playing soccer, but hopefully offset the costs of furthering education for young athletes through the instruction of an elite level of soccer.
"It's all about getting these kids into college, but obviously, the more games you win, the better tournaments you can go to and the more exposure the kids can get," Amato said. "That's critical because if you don't go to the right events anymore, your kids don't get seen."
Amato credited some of his club's success to the overall growth of the game in the state. While West Virginia has few teams that compete at the State Cup level, Annandale has to go through a large tournament field to even advance to the Region I tournament.
"For us to get out of Virginia is an accomplishment because it is so hard to get out, but once you get here, you are prepared so that's certainly a good thing," Amato said.
Annandale's bid for national championship No. 8 fell short at the regional level on Monday when the Virginia champs lost to PSC Coppa (Pa.-E). After a 2-2 draw following overtime, Annandale fell 4-3 in penalty kicks.