Getting your kicks

By AMANDA FITE World Staff Writer

John Crouch lives and breathes soccer as a player, coach and businessman. The executive director of Soccer World Inc., Crouch is offering two Saturday open houses, May 11 and May 18, at the facility at 5817 S. 118th East Ave., so youngsters and their parents can get a feel for the game he loves.
AMANDA FITE / Tulsa World


Indoor soccer facility helps local players get their start

Without a helping hand, the soccer novice can quickly become lost in a maze of leagues, teams, age groups, settings, seasons and levels of competition.

Soccer can be recreational or competitive, league or open play, for children or adults. It may be played indoor and outdoor, winter, spring, summer, and fall, by men's and women's and coed teams composed of players ranging in age from 5 to more than 50.

If newcomers find the soccer scene confusing, John Crouch said he understands why. He's reaching out a helping hand that's gently pushing many Tulsa soccer players to reach whatever goals they're kicking for.

Crouch owns the KickSmart complex at Jenks, both a field for play at 2424 W. 91st St. and a program that focuses on youth training, camps and classes. He is also the executive director of Soccer World Inc., 5817 S. 118th East Ave., a 50,000-square-foot facility with concessions, bleacher seating for 1,000 and two full-size fields.

Crouch said that because Soccer World is the only indoor arena of its kind in Tulsa, it's become the place where soccer players from preschool to the professional level can, and do, get their kicks.

While Crouch said he's interested in talking to players of any age or skill level, the 4-year-old businesses he directs are focusing this summer on educating children and their families about the benefits of area soccer programs.

"We would like to be a tool that adds thousands of kids" to the sport, he said.

To that end, Soccer World is offering two Saturday open houses, May 11 and May 18, to introduce interested children and parents to the world of soccer.

"We are really trying to scour the city for new kids to try it," said Crouch, who believes soccer is the perfect sport for kids 5-12.

"Everything they need to be an athlete, soccer provides," he explained.

Crouch said that while soccer shares with other sports the training of many positive life skills -- discipline, teamwork, communication, coordination and a habit of physical fitness -- it also offers some important differences.

He said soccer, unlike many other sports for children, constantly keeps kids moving and thinking -- not standing around waiting their turns or trying to remember rules that can be too complicated for young minds.

With soccer for 5-year-olds, Crouch said kids just need to know "Go that way, kick it in.

"You give them a ball and different colored shirts, and the kids will figure it out."

Team play in soccer also differs in an important way from other sports, Crouch added.

"Everyone gets to be the quarterback," he said. "Everybody gets the chance to make the decision, to impact the game."

He added that equipment costs are relatively cheap compared to most other sports, and that soccer is a game that kids can play into adulthood or use as a springboard to other athletic programs.

Summer training camps start at Soccer World on Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27) and costs about $90 a week, Crouch said.

For that, students can attend training 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays through Fridays, and they'll be provided with free lunches, camp T-shirts and soccer balls to take home.

There will be two indoor soccer seasons this summer, Crouch said, one from June to July and the other from mid-July to August.

Crouch said children love indoor soccer with its "Lights! Camera! Action!" feel, as dim spotlights begin to brighten and light the fields.

And indoor soccer offers a welcome respite from Oklahoma's weather, Crouch said.

"We beat the heat and the rain," he said, adding that children can play comfortably for more hours when they are in a climate-controlled environment.

The indoor facility has become so popular, it's used by teams and players from across the area who rent fields for $70 an hour to train, play games and host parties that take advantage of Soccer World's concession stand.

Crouch said his staff includes 20 experienced collegiate-level "and sometimes beyond" players and coaches, some of them coming to Tulsa from an international background.

As for his own career, Crouch said he played soccer at Illinois State University and the University of Tulsa after serving as captain of the Jenks Trojan Soccer Team in 1984. Team members were state champions that year, he added, and it was only the second year soccer was offered at Jenks.

In addition to his current soccer jobs, Crouch is also a soccer coach for state and regional sectors of the Olympic Development Program.

To learn more about Soccer World or KickSmart, visit the Web sites and or call Crouch at 254-4234.

The Web sites include scheduled matches and other information, as well as electronic message boards where interested teams can find players or players can find teams.