With the World Cup currently underway, the epic sport of soccer is on everyone’s mind. If your child is taking an interest in the sport and you’re looking to get involved, the Trenton Youth Soccer League (TYSL) is here to provide you with all the tools you need to get started.

The TYSL is free to participate in and provides children with a safe, accessible environment to play right in their community. Participation in sports offers a variety of benefits, including improved physical, social, and emotional health. Research indicates that participation in the league can improve school attendance and performance. Furthermore, data suggest that participation in soccer can improve aerobic performance, and muscle development, and strengthen bones. Besides the physical benefits, the League also encourages a variety of healthy behaviors including behavioral changes, educational performance, health literacy, and leadership. In promoting positive coping mechanisms and social skills, the League can help to lessen instances of violence, substance abuse, obesity, and more.

The league is offered through Play Soccer Nonprofit International, a non-profit that brought the League to Trenton in 2015. Today, the League remains the only program that PSNI funds and operates. Trenton Daily had a chance to speak with Kurt Lituma, a volunteer on PSNI’s Board of Directors and TYSL coach, and Judy McPherson, the Executive Director of PSNI to learn more about how the league came to be and what exciting plans lie ahead for Trenton’s up-and-coming athletes.

Regarding how the league got started in Trenton, McPherson stated “Play Soccer Nonprofit International had our office in Princeton for a long time, and Trenton was a community where there was both a population that was very interested in soccer as well as our USA outreach. We had been in other places across the US, but Trenton was right at our doorstep and seemed like a logical place to connect. It looked like a ready place and where the program would grow and flourish.”

When asked about why it’s so important for children to be able to participate in such activities, Lituma noted “Through my work, one of the things that we constantly hear is that there need to be more activities for kids, things to do to keep them occupied. Soccer is something that essentially everyone in the world loves. It’s super important for kids to have opportunities to participate in things that keep them active, keep them busy, give them constructive outlets for all their energy.”

Judy echoed that sentiment, noting some of the benefits that come with sports participation. She went on to state “We have always tried to align with the City of Trenton’s public health challenges, and particularly with the Community Health and Wellness Plan that was approved in 2021. We’ve identified a lot of the same things that have been identified for some time in terms of the chronic disease statistics in Trenton that represent a need for attacking or addressing those challenges. [For exercise] some people would argue that soccer is the best because of the running, the cardio, and the development of the bone and muscle that occurs in a very active sport like soccer. So, public health is a major thing, including all of the physical, social, and mental reasons.”

Reflecting on what the most rewarding part of coaching has been, Kurt stated “We’ve seen a collective improvement in the kids – coming from the first week of this fall having very little to no soccer knowledge at all. Now they aren’t ready to go pro or anything, but now I can tell them ‘What do we not do on the field?’ and they know, we don’t bunch up, look for space, and things like that. You see the kids grow in their understanding and ability in the game, and even in that short a term, it’s huge to see.” And as the children participate, their families are rallied as well. Kurt continued, stating “There’ll be parents who bring multiple kids, there will be a lot of parents, and they stay and watch the kids practice, cheer them on. So I think having that kind of family aspect around it is another huge, huge thing that makes me love doing it.”

If you have the time and opportunity, the Trenton Youth Soccer League is always looking for more helping hands to support its young athletes. When asked what we can do as a community to support the team, Kurt noted “Anyone who loves soccer and likes working with kids is welcome to reach out and try to get involved. We’re certainly looking for volunteers, so if you want to help coach on a Saturday or if you want to help with sign-ups, we would certainly look for any support with that. Also, we’re going to be on the lookout for any equipment. The more soccer balls, pinnies, more options we have, the more kids we can work with.” McPherson echoed that, saying “We very much appreciate financial contributions as well.”

Regarding what comes next, the league will continue to be ongoing, offering leagues seasonally.¬†For any families interested in getting started, the league offers a myriad of opportunities to get started each year. McPherson noted that interested participants can learn more about enrolling through the Trenton Public School system. Resources regarding getting started are also available at the East Trenton Center. If you’re interested in learning more about the program, please visit the PSNI website here: Play Soccer Nonprofit International – About. Any questions may be directed to playsocnonprofit@gmail.com or (609) 651-0854. Information is available in Spanish at (215) 584-1893. Getting your child involved in sports can change their life for the better, so be sure to check out the wonderful opportunities the Trenton Youth Soccer League offers today.

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