Meridian Industrial


8/27/2020 | KEITH O’CONNOR


World Cup soccer announcer Andres Cantor from the Telemundo network is famous for roaring out a loud “Goal” when one is scored.

But for young children possibly beginning their soccer careers in Westfield at Roots Athletic Center’s Soccer Academy, it isn’t always about making a goal.

“The nice part about soccer, in addition to promoting health and well-being and the physical ability to move forward into other sports, is the life lessons it offers. Once children are older, that’s when the technical aspects of the sport come into play. But, in the beginning with three- and four-year-old kids in our Turf Tykes class, it is more about being out on the field and engaging in physical activity, and us helping them to work independently while still developing their cooperative skills,” said Jason Blunt, program director at Roots Athletic Center, about being physically literate.

“It’s one of those sports that encompasses all those valuable physical, social and mental life lessons needed to succeed in life, whether playing sports, making music, participating in the arts, or whatever you choose to do with your life,” he added. said Jason Blunt.

According to the “Active for Life - Raising physically literate kids” website, physical literacy is a life cycle beginning with youngsters developing the skills, confidence and love of movement to be physically active. It begins when parents encourage moving in infancy, develops throughout life, and can be a gift that is shared between generations. The benefits of being physically active include increased self-esteem and happiness, higher test scores, reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, and higher annual earnings.

Soccer enjoys immense popularity around the world for both players and spectators and is played by more than 265 million people in a Fifa Big Count survey.

“In general, soccer is a more affordable sport compared to what it costs parents to outfit a child to play hockey. It’s also more accessible…...a universal activity for all kids no matter what shape, size or interest level. Anyone can step onto the soccer field and benefit,” Blunt said.

Soccer classes at Roots - there are nine different sessions focusing on developing different game skills - begin with the coed Turf Tykes and continues with Mighty Kickers and Might Kickers Plus for boys and girls ages 5-6, Junior Kickers and Junior Kickers Plus for boys and girls ages 7-8, coed Senior Kickers for ages 9-10, coed Goalkeeper Training for ages 9 and older, coed Striker Training for ages 9 and older, and coed Fast Feet Training for ages 9 and older. The “plus” classes involve joining the Roots Soccer Academy team with one training per week, games every weekend, and a Roots team jersey.

So, what about kids whose parents signed them up for soccer lessons, but all the child wants to do is to get off of the field and go home?

“I’ve coached plenty of kids who aren’t necessarily your typical athletes, but when it comes to soccer time, it’s something they look forward to coming here for. Of course, there is always the child who just isn’t sure about it, but we don’t really see that much because we take the extra effort to put a fun and exciting hat on their soccer experience,” Blunt said.

Blunt noted they are doing everything possible to keep kids, staff and patrons safe while at Roots Athletic Center, and are strictly following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state of Massachusetts, and the Westfield Health Department.

“Our large facility with open spaces both indoors and outdoors has allowed us to design practice, training, and programs that follow social distancing guidelines, while still allowing for those intimate coaching conversations. Our class sizes are now smaller, so you won’t find massive groups of kids together at the same time. And, we also take cleaning very seriously and sanitize all equipment such as balls and cones before and after each use,” he said.

Blunt’s love for soccer began when his parents signed him up to play.

“We lived in central Connecticut where soccer was a popular sport, and I excelled and moved through different programs, ultimately playing in high school and for a few years at Westfield State University,” Blunt said.

After college, he worked in a variety of different coaching jobs, including at the YMCA, before being “lucky enough to come to Roots to coach,” he said.

Roots Soccer Academy begins its fall schedule on Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 31.

Seven classes are offered per session and depending on the program prices are $155, $200, $225 and $45 for add-on games.

Roots Athletic Center - housed in a 100,000 square foot building on 181 Root Road in Westfield - is about more than just soccer. The indoor/outdoor facility with three large indoor artificial turf fields (each measuring 200 feet by 100 feet), the largest indoor track in New England, and two outdoor international size turf fields with lights, also is home to Roots Learning Center, Roots Gymnastics, Roots Aquatics and Fitness Center and Roots Cycle. The Center also hosts birthday parties and holds a summer camp with an introduction to everything they have to offer at the sports facility. They also lease space to The Batter’s Box baseball and training facility.

“Roots Athletic Center is a great place for kids to stay out of trouble and take a break from always being in front of the computer screen or playing video games. While at Roots, kids will learn together in a positive, supervised atmosphere with coaches who care about their long-term welfare,” said Frank DeMarinis, owner of Roots Athletic Center.

“Most importantly, athletics provides children with the opportunity to grow into adulthood with the proper attributes needed to survive in today’s world - good ethics, determination, and the desire to work hard and never give up,” he added.


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