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Guided by Pros, Perry Hall Rec Soccer Keeps Scoring

Mike Conway, president of the Perry Hall White Marsh Soccer Association, said his goal is to train "good kids," not just good soccer players.

 

For most young soccer players, instruction from professionally trained athletes is reserved for exclusive, and often expensive, clinics and camps.

But within the Perry Hall White Marsh Soccer Association, former pro and collegiate soccer players regularly provide coaching and practice to boys and girls as young as 4. Current Baltimore Blast players occasionally volunteer their time as well.

Mike Conway—who played for the then-Baltimore Spirit in the Major Indoor Soccer League between 1992 and 1993—is at least partially responsible for luring in the extra talent, as well as creating a more serious atmosphere among the program's recreational teams.

Conway currently works as the Blast's assistant general manager, and since 2011, he has volunteered as president of the PHWMSA. The Perry Hall resident has two sons, ages 6 and 9, who both play in the program.

"Soccer is my life," Conway told Patch, while coaching an evening travel team practice. "My heart and soul is here—this is what I grew up with."

Across the field, Derrick Marcano, who played for the Blast between 1995 and 2005, works with a group of 9-year-old boys on their passing skills. He is a friend of Conway from high school. Multiple times each week, Marcano travels to Perry Hall from his home in Woodlawn to assist with practices and so his son, Stephon, can participate in the program.

"I bring him here, where I know he can get good instruction from people who care about the game," he said. "It's a good culture."

Coaches and players in the program respect the sport in a way seldom seen in the United States, Marcano said.

"I love to see kids that really want to play the game, kids who really love the game and want to follow it at an international level—you just don't see that everywhere," he said.

Conway said he approached the position of president with several goals in mind: to begin conducting monthly meetings, standardizing the uniforms and encouraging more involvement from highly-trained community members.

"I don't think they had bad people running it before—I don't think there are any bad people volunteering their time to help kids. I just think they needed some more direction," he said.

Program volunteers also include coach Franco Pastore, a former standout player at Archbishop Curley High School and University of Maryland Baltimore County, as well as director of coaching Derek Woodward, who played at Calvert Hall and Frostburg State University.

"We just feel like, if we have these people that are knowledgeable, why not use them? We're not getting paid anything. This is all volunteer," he added.

Conway said the soccer program—which currently includes more than 1,200 athletes, age 16 and under—is growing in size and diversity, attracting families of varied social, economic and racial backgrounds from across Baltimore County.

"Players are being exposed to other kids. This isn't just their friends from school," he said.

Perry Hall's multiple playing fields provide an ideal, central location for the program, he added.

"We have Cowenton, we have Honeygo and Perry Hall Park, Kingsville has a park—we have all this space," he said. "If you're always fighting for field space, the kids won't get to practice as much."

Despite his position in the pro soccer business, Conway said the rec program isn't about home-growing the next David Beckham—at least not directly.

"It's gotten to be so much about winning, and the name on your shirt, but what I really want to hear, beyond if they're really good players, is if they're good kids," he said. "I want kids who are well rounded, who do well in school, who are respectful and have that understanding of what they're getting out of it. This is just a stepping stone for them. They're making friends here and they're becoming better players."

Of course, several of the players still dream of playing pro. Stephon Marcano, 9, said he hopes to follow in his father's footsteps and someday play for the Blast. Likewise, while attending a practice, Amy Schenning said her 9-year-old son Thorn's bedroom is decorated in homage to FIFA.

Schenning said the program has provided her son and other players with several positive role models.

"You can tell they respect their coaches ... not all of the kids have solid family situations. The team has become an extended family," she said.

Starting Memorial Day weekend and continuing through June 8, tryouts for the program's fall season are scheduled at the Community College of Baltimore County Essex. Details are available on the program's website.

After several spring tournament wins, especially among several of the girls and travel teams, Conway said he's looking forward to a new season.

"My end goal, and what we've talked about as a program, is to take the kids to the highest level where they can play," he said.

Josh Headley June 04, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Just to clarify, the PHWMSA is a Travel/Club program, and is competitive entry, holding tryouts and selecting the best athletes for each team. The Perry Hall and White Marsh Recreation Councils also jointly operate the PHWM Rec Soccer program, which is not competitive entry. Evaluations are held in the late summer to build fairly balanced teams for league play.
Mike Conway June 05, 2012 at 02:02 PM
PHWM Soccer Club is a part of the PHWM Rec Council. PHWM Rec Council Soocer consists of over 1300 soccer participants and over 150 volunteers coaches and parents that compete year around. Perry Hall and White Marsh Rec Councils are two seperate councils that have partnered and the soccer program is run by both councils. Thanks to the countless hours of volunteers it has become a successful program. The travel soccer program is an off shoot of the Perry Hall White Marsh Rec Soccer programs.
Terry Nolan June 06, 2012 at 12:54 AM
PHWM Soccer Association was formed 8 years ago with the merger of the Perry Hall Recreation Council's soccer program and the White Marsh Recreation Council's soccer program. PHWM Soccer Association has two programs the recreation program (PHWM Soccer) and the travel/club program (PHWM Soccer Club). The Recreation program provides the opportunity for all children to play soccer in organized PHWM leagues. The leagues and clinics are ages 4 through 14 for boys and girls and a Co-ed league for ages 15 - 18 with over 1200 participating children. The teams are balanced as best as possible to allow for the leagues to have competition between similar skilled teams. The PHWM Soccer program is administered by a group of 15 volunteers and has over 150 volunteer coaches. See http://perryhallrec.com or http://whitemarshrec.org soccer pages. The travel/club program, PHWM SC, provides the opportunity for children to play in highly competitive leagues and play at the highest skill level possible. PHWM SC was formed 5 years ago from the recreation program's travel teams. PHWM SC has it's own board of directors and by-laws as required by all of the state and national soccer organizations. Mike Conway is the President of the PHWM SC. PHWM SC is administered and teams coached by all volunteers. The PHWM SC teams are selected yearly through try outs. The club has 24 teams and will grow to 28 teams for the 2012 - 2013 season, see http://phwmfc.com.

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