An area club is working to develop its soccer program for children in Crawford County.

Boys and Girls Club of Alma recently expanded its soccer program to include kids ages 4-18 and accepts children from throughout the county, said director Elaina Damante.

"We opened it up to older children because we’re hoping to get a travel team set up," Damante said.

Damante and her soccer staff are trying to develop a strong soccer program in Alma, she said. Almost all of the volunteer coaches are certified, with the rest working toward certification, and all referees are certified, she said.

With the help of its sponsors, Alma’s club recently held a groundbreaking for three new soccer fields that will be built adjacent to the club, Damante said.

New fields will allow for soccer tournaments at the club, and with the addition of a travel team, participants also would be able to attend tournaments out of the area.

These changes contribute to the quality of the overall program and are attracting parents and children from around the county, Damante said.

"This season will be our biggest and best yet," Damante said. "We’re having a big response from parents in the area."

Kids from Van Buren, Cedarville, Mulberry and of course, Alma, have signed up for the fall soccer program, to be held Aug. 16 through Sept. 27, Damante said.

Kids must be registered for the program by July 26, and sign-up is Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the club or on special sign up days July 19 and July 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For additional training before the fall program begins, a soccer camp will be held July 21-25 at the football field at Alma Intermediate School for kids ages 9-18. Participants must turn 9 by Aug. 1.

Sign-up and payment for the camp must be made at the club, and kids are required to have their own soccer ball, socks, shin guards and soccer cleats.

"They work on dribbling skills, blocking skills and they work on shooting skills, and they work on just getting the kids more confident and having fun," Damante said.

Cost for both the soccer camp and program are $20, and participants must be members of the Boys and Girls Club of Alma. Membership is $20, and is year-long.

"I am really proud of our children," Damante said. "The ones coming up in the program have really worked hard."

Damante especially loves watching the smallest children in the program play the sport, she said.

"At 6-years-old they start getting more competitive, but the little ones just look at the birds and they run behind the goals. We just laugh and clap, and the parents laugh. It’s a lot of fun," Damante said.

For more information call (479) 632-2070.