Southgate’s partnership with YMCA is winner for residents

Photos by Larry Caruso.

– Special to the Southgate Star

Southgate residents have more opportunities to get fit, stay fit and have fun with their families, thanks to the city’s partnership with the Downriver Family YMCA, 16777 North Line Road.

Through a shared usage agreement developed in 2012, the two entities have formed the United Sports soccer and basketball leagues. The spring soccer league finished its season recently, and registrations are being taken through Aug. 16 for the fall league, which starts play in September.

Registration deadline for fall basketball league play is Oct. 4; practices begin the week of Oct. 21. Southgate residents and Downriver Y members can sign up for either league at a discounted rate.

The Y also has several classes that residents take part in daily, Southgate Mayor Joseph Kuspa said, and provides a number of programs that residents can use to improve their lifestyle.

“It’s important for any administration to look for other organizations that can enhance what you offer to your community,” Kuspa said of the city’s partnership with the Y. “We’ve done it with the Southgate Community School District. It’s natural for us to link up with the Y. Each set of programs will grow by participating with each other.”

Soccer league participation is open to youngsters ages 6 through 14 throughout the area of all abilities. The Little Kickers program (age 3- to 5-years-old) has a registration deadline of Sept. 8. Participants go around to different practice stations and play soccer-related games to help them build skills before they move up to the big leagues.

The United Sports soccer league aims to create a positive experience for children and their families while teaching the fundamentals of soccer and emphasizing character development. To keep things competitive yet fun, player evaluations will be done in August. While that may sound a little daunting, it’s not, said Matt Clunis, sports manager at the Downriver Y.

Photo by Larry Caruso.

“We do the evaluations to make sure teams’ skill levels are distributed evenly and fairly,” he said. “It’s still competitive, though, and everybody has a fun time.”

The two entities have developed a division of labor to create the soccer experience for participants. The Downriver Y provides the jerseys, referees and player evaluations and works with city to put teams together. Once league play starts, city workers line the fields at Davidson Middle School (where all games are played) and make sure they are cut and playable. The Y updates player rosters as needed during the season.

Clunis said some 400 children played spring soccer this year, on a par with the last few years. The robust turnout resulted in 25 teams, making it one of the larger YMCA programs regionally, he said. About 200 participants are expected in the fall 2019 United Sports soccer league.

The leagues are a great chance for players and their families to make friends from surrounding communities, Clunis said, adding that many of those friendships last.

“We’ve had a lot of young people who started with preschool program and stay with program through age 14,” Clunis said. “I’ve heard people say things like, ‘I played soccer with Jack since I was 4, and now we’re still playing together and we’re both 13 years old.

“We try to make sure the games are a great time for the players and their families.”

Clunis said the same philosophy and evaluation process applies to the United Sports basketball league, which emphasizes player development, playing time and strong character. The basketball league also welcomes players ages 6 through 14. The Little Dunkers league is similar to the Little Kickers league and is for children ages 3 and 4 who want to start working on their hoop skills; the registration deadline is Oct. 25.

Some 400 players are expected for the winter basketball league, which begins play in January; registration deadline is Dec. 20. Games are played at the Y and at Gerisch Middle School.

“We’re really pleased to have the Downriver Family YMCA as a partner in our recreation programs,” Kuspa said. “It’s a great way to instill in young people the importance of exercise.”

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