The HF Soccer Club, a youth soccer organization that’s existed since 1974, will begin its recreational fall season on the weekend of Sept. 11. Enrollment is currently open for players between 4 years old and the 8th grade. Registration closes on Sunday, Aug. 22.
According to HFSC’s website, the recreational program is “a noncompetitive soccer program that helps younger players build a foundation for future growth in soccer.” The website also states, “the HFSC's mission is to make soccer accessible to all youth regardless of skill level and provide an opportunity for each player to develop to their highest potential in a local, affordable and professionally run program.”
“[The recreational program] is different than the competitive,” said Raymond Cook, who has been a member of the HFSC board directors for about 30 years. “In the rec program, everybody gets equal playing time. We don’t keep score. We don’t have standings – which team is first, second, third or fourth. And if you miss practice, you’ll still play just as much.”
“We are in the middle of rebuilding our recreational program so that we can start field and competitive teams again,” said Mark Matthews, HFSC president.
“We’re currently not having competitive travel teams, but we hope to in the near future – maybe in a year or two,” Cook said. “We have some interest, but you got to have a bigger commitment from people. It’s more expensive. You have to travel to the I-88 corridor a lot – Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Western Springs, that type of place.”
While many players live in Homewood or Flossmoor, Mathews said, “there’s no geographic requirement to join the club.” He said players come from nearby communities such as Chicago Heights and Crete too.
“We’re not limited to people from Homewood-Flossmoor-Olympia Fields. We’re not a park district program – even though we use some park district fields. We’re an independent soccer club. So, it’s the same price no matter where you come from,” said Cook. “We probably have 20 to 25 percent people who are not in that particular district.”
As with most activities these days, the COVID-19 pandemic is a factor in the club's operation. Under the Illinois Department of Health’s guidelines, soccer is considered a medium risk sport for contracting COVID. To compare, baseball is low risk and football is high risk. Mathews and Cook said the HF Soccer Club is following all COVID guidelines required by the Illinois Department of Health and the Illinois Youth Soccer Association.
Matthews said that because of the pandemic, in 2020, there was no recreational or competitive soccer season. Mathews said this year’s spring season was the first time they were able to play games again, but with COVID regulations put in place. He said they did have “very limited training” in “very prescribed groups for a limited amount of time” in 2020, but there were no “teams against teams.”
This fall, the Pumpkin Cup Tournament, a two-weekend long event where players play with an orange ball with a jack-o'-lantern on it, will take place for the first time in two years.
Since June, the mask mandate for all attendees has been lifted, but Mathews said unvaccinated players and attendees are required to wear facemasks at all times, even on the sidelines. Mathews said “a large percentage” of the players are under the age of 12 and therefore can’t get vaccinated. If someone is vaccinated, then they aren’t required to wear a mask.
"We are waiting to see what happens with any guidelines due to Delta and whether it’s going to change for outdoor sports or not,” said Mathews, referring to a variant of the virus that is fueling a new surge in infections.
“[Soccer] is truly a team sport. It’s not like half the team is sitting on the bench and half the team is waiting for something to happen while two people are throwing a ball back and forth,” said Cook. “Everybody can score. Everybody is involved. The whole team can attack. The whole team can defend.”
Matthews said the HFSC teaches kids to “learn the game and learn to love the game.”