Sequim Junior Soccer is an organization with a long history in Sequim, and while club president David Henderson has been in charge of the organization for the just three years he says its his goal is to make sure that there’s plenty of history left to write about soccer in the area.
“Sequim Junior Soccer is about the sport, obviously, but it’s also about these kids and the community around them,” says Henderson, who took over SJS after being mentored by previous president Ken Garling.
“There’s so many great and talented kids here (in SJS), and everything about what we do is about all of them and everyone around them coming together to create something wonderful.”
Henderson has worked with local soccer advocates for seven years since his older son started playing with SJS, starting out as a coach for one of their U-6 teams — the organization’s youngest competitive program.
A conversation with Garling, then the SJS president, helped Henderson realize he needed to, as he says, “get some skin in the game.” He started helping take care of Albert Haller Playfields at Carrie Blake Community Park, cleaning the fields, painting the lines for the various practice and game areas and maintaining the goals and their nets.
That work, and his unending passion for coaching the kids under his charge and helping to teach them about life away from the field, is a big part of why Henderson became president when Garling stepped down, he says.
Sequim Junior Soccer is booming. The organization’s 2019 spring 10-week spring season boasts 450 youth players ranging from their “Little Kickers” program for kids starting at age 3, up to its U-15 teams. Henderson says that’s an increase of more than 40percent from when he took over.
That number includes more than 100 youths coming from Port Angeles, plus others from as far as Forks, Chimacum, and Port Townsend.
Part of that growth comes from a reputation for quality soccer that Henderson, Garling and the group of nearly 70 coaches have helped to craft over the years.
Several of SJS’s youth coaches are also players on the Sequim High Boys soccer team that went undefeated this spring, as Henderson encourages former SJS players to come give back to the community.
One of their U-12 coaches, SHS star Ryan Tolberd, also spends many of his Saturday mornings refereeing other Sequim Junior Soccer matches at the Haller fields, while SHS senior teammate Sean Weber has done so much for the program that he was awarded with a college scholarship in late May.
SHS soccer head coaches Dave Brasher and Derek Vander Velde are involved in coaching as well.
To help support SJS players, Henderson says he’s put in a lot of effort to not only to secure sponsorships from local companies but to get them involved in the program as well.
“We want these companies to see (Sequim Junior Soccer) as more than just a tax write-off,” Henderson said. “We want them to be part of what we’re building.”
That attitude helped him be able to put together the scholarship program that added Weber to it’s list of awardees, and to grow SJS to where it is now.
Sponsorships help lower the cost of participating in SJS for families. Each 10-week season in the fall and spring costs $56. That fees includes membership, jersey and matching shorts and socks. Families supply cleats and shin guards, but Henderson says he’s constantly traveling around the region buying soccer equipment to raffle it off on game days or even outright give it to families in need.
Those community ties also help promote the other side of SJS’s mission: that sports of all kind are about more than just what happens on the field. They’re about building a community of support from all sides, and that in turn gives the players a chance to give back to that community through their own means. Sports is about giving the players the tools they need to be able to support themselves in life, and to know how to be a productive part of a larger community.
In short, SJS is about developing the whole person, not just the soccer player, club leaders say.
Now Henderson says he’s ready for the program to take it’s next step: forming a select soccer team. Select teams are taken from the elite soccer players of their age groups, then travel around the region facing other select teams.
Sequim already plays host to one well-regarded select team with Storm King Soccer calling the town home, but Henderson thinks there’s room for competition.
“We already have a lot of (Storm King) players in our spring season every year,” he said. “And we know just how many more high-quality players there are in the region.”
Henderson says he wants to make sure as many players as possible have the platform they deserve, and he sees their new select program, dubbed Sequim Junior Soccer Elite, as the next logical step for SJS to take in creating that platform.
SJS Elite recently held their tryouts, and are set to begin play during the fall season.
Henderson also has his eyes on a larger expansion of SJS, with the group operating at the maximum capacity that Albert Haller Playfields can bear. He says he’s considering various options to expand their operations, including potentially starting their own more formal facility somewhere in the area.