The Netherlands was giving France a tough time during the opening day soccer match Saturday, April 23, at Apollo Park in Homewood.
It wasn’t THE Netherlands team versus THE France team, of course, but two HF Soccer Club teams decked out in Netherlands and France colors, a new approach to uniforms for the co-ed recreational soccer league.
The idea was the brainchild of league commissioner Anne Colton, who said she thought identifying with national teams would appeal to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade players in her league.
“Prior to this we didn’t do a very good job of differentiating ages,” she said. “All the kids got the same uniform. All the kids got the same trophy at the end. By the time you’re in seventh grade you do not want the same trophy the preschoolers get.
“I wanted to find a different way of honoring the kids and inspiring the kids and give them some kind of keepsake that will be meaningful to them,” she added.
She said the idea came to her as she was watching one of her co-ed league players walking with a young sibling last fall.
“They had the exact same shirt,” she said.
Colton said her experience working with and coaching teens has taught her that kids that age are eager to be differentiated from younger children.
She decided having uniforms that approximated those of World Cup teams might meet that need.
“I just think that would be more meaningful for kids this age than a trophy,” she said. “This is a way of respecting the kids. We want you to feel like you’re in a different league.”
She offered the coaches of the league’s five teams their preferences for teams to identify with, and the top choices were the United States, Brazil, France, the Netherlands and Bosnia.
She consulted with Ron Nixon, owner of Nix Nax Activewear in Homewood, and he helped her find a vendor for shirts, shorts and socks that would match the team colors. He also found team emblems to add to the shirts.
Colton noted that her budget wouldn’t allow buying official team uniforms, so Nixon helped her come as close as possible with the resources available. She said she stayed within her regular budget, absorbing the additional cost by eliminating the cost of trophies.