One of the oldest soccer organizations in metro Atlanta will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall. The Decatur-DeKalb YMCA Soccer Club launched when the Atlanta Chiefs began putting down roots in the area. We had a chance to catch up with two people who understand the club inside and out. Jeff Newbury has been with the club since 2001 and recently coached Atlanta United winger Lagos Kunga. Richard Richmond played professionally for the Atlanta Ruckus and Atlanta Silverbacks before coaching at the club.
Get to know DDYSC...
Jon Nelson: First, a little history lesson on DDYSC from your perspective...
Richard Richmond: I grew up in Atlanta soccer and DDYSC was a club/organization that I played against in my youth. To have survived the years and all the changes to GA soccer and still provide life lessons to kids interested in playing soccer says a lot about the longevity of the program. I started both my boys in soccer at DDYSC when they were both about 4 years old and I coached both of them until they were about 12 to 13 years old.
It was always a joy for me to share my love for the sport and coach them and that was a big part of why I chose to begin my coaching experience with DDYSC. I interviewed at a couple of clubs for potential fits for both me and my kids and I enjoyed what I had already started at DDYSC as the recreational level to pursue something more at the Academy level. The philosophy of coaching the kids to learn the game above winning and integrating the multiple cultures was a big draw for me and I wanted my kids to experience playing with a more culturally diverse group of kids.
We worked a lot with the refugee community in Clarkston, from taking kids to and from practices and games to providing shoes and shin guards to paying for summer camp fee to developing relationships that will last a lifetime. I see many of the kids that I have coached over the years and it is so rewarding to see them grow up into young men. The program has grown tremendously over the years to one team per age group or not having one at all in a particular age group to have 2 to 5 teams per age group. The coaches and administration at DDYSC are special in that they give not only their time to the program but dedicate a lot of their time making it work so that everyone has a place to play regardless of circumstance and money. To see these kids interact and come out of their shell to participate in such a beautiful game is tremendous.
What the program does as a whole to show these kids that life is good and that there is a larger community that supports them with whatever they need provides them with basic sense that we are all in this together.
Jeff Newbury: DDYSC has evolved from a small local YMCA program to a mid-sized competitive program while not abandoning our core principles. Since our inception, we have committed to serving the players and families of our community. We have thrived in providing those in need with the opportunities to play competitive youth soccer. Over the years we have formed great partnerships with local organizations, such as the International Community School (ICS), that have bridged the cultural gaps between our diverse community. We are extremely excited to reach our 50th Anniversary next year and looking forward to another half century of community involvement.
Nelson: What has it been like to see the sport grow and evolve over the last few years from what you've seen in DeKalb County?
Richmond: Soccer is such a great sport for kids of all walks of life to come together to grow and accomplish so many things and the sport itself continues to develop and grow throughout DeKalb county. Every club in the area is looking for field space and we continue to hope that more public and private space is available for practice and games. The potential to continue to grow and prosper can only be slowed by the lack of field space.
Newbury: DeKalb County is such a diverse county. In that regard, we are in a constant state of evolution, which is exciting and challenging. The sport of soccer is thriving in DeKalb County, but will require the clubs in the area to continue to adapt to increasing numbers and shrinking field space options.
Nelson: Placing six players in the Atlanta United academy has to be a source of pride.
Richmond: Pride throughout the club is great and we are so proud of each and every one of them both on and off the soccer fields. There are so many kids in the program and we have a great sense of pride for all of their achievements whether it be on the field of play, in school, in society or at home. I have had the privilege to coach a couple of them, my son Nathan being one of them and Caleb Wiley the other. It is a great sense of joy to see that the hard work you do with these kids pays off. I have had the privilege of assisting on occasion the coaching with some of the other boys in the program and to see them announced as players for Atlanta United helps to show that we have done a few things correct in teaching the kids the game.
Newbury: Yes, the numbers of players for our size is exciting, but we are more proud of the individuals who were selected. Each of them has a rich history with DDYSC and we very proud to have played a role in their development.
Part 2 coming later this week...
(photo courtesy of @1968DDYscwolves)