TRENTON — In the wake of the Women’s World Cup, the eyes of sports fans around the world have been on the soccer field. But local Acadia Fire Football Club (AFFC) slowly has been growing a Down East Maine following for the last seven years.
This past weekend, the club notched their first tournament wins at the 2015 Coastal Challenge at Bowdoin College in Brunswick in the U18 and U12 boys’ divisions.
The U18 girls also reached the championship game before falling to a midcoast Premier team 0-1. President Michael Curless said that “the focus on skill development over the past years has paid off. Players not only continue to improve, but they also have lots of fun and play with increased self-confidence.”
When the club first started, it included 33 athletes spread over four age groups U10/U11/U12/U14. The “U” stands for under, as that is how eligibility for certain levels is decided in soccer. If the child has not reached the age by July 31, they are eligible to play on that level. Athletes can play above their age group if they so desire.
This past spring, the program had grown to 170 athletes, aged 5-18, playing on 13 teams. Some athletes travel from as far as Deer Isle, Belfast, Bangor and Eastbrook. In 2014, the club moved into a more centralized facility in Trenton featuring an indoor turf field.
Curless pointed to the skill of the Fire athletes as the main draw for new talent. “We generally grow through our players attracting attention with their skills,” he said in an email. “Other parents will see an AFFC player play at a rec/school game and then ask where they learned the skills. Parents also frequently share with friends about AFFC.”
Curless recently earned his National A license through the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), which is the highest certification offered. According to the USSF licensing website, the A license “focuses on recognizing the principles of the game and its technical applications in 11-v-11 game format and how these principles influence positional, group and team organization. The course also examines player, team and game management issues as they relate to the senior level player.”
Curless achieved his certification this past winter in Florida in a course made up of some of the top coaches across the country.
This spring, there were nine different coaches employed by AFFC, most with at least an E or F level coaching license. Curless said that his coaches are “chosen based on their easy-going temperament combined with their passion for soccer. AFFC has a strong policy to treat players with respect at all times and to focus on skill development over winning.”
That focus paid off at the Coastal Classic in Brunswick. The U12 boys, coached by Brian Dominy and Kevin Walls, earned a first place finish, as did the U18 boys, coached by Michael Curless and Jim Fox.
The U18 girls were coached by Samantha Smith. Mount Desert Island High School standout Opal Curless played on both the boys’ and girls’ U18 teams, playing a total of five games through the weekend. Opal Curless will continue her career at Syracuse University in New York following her senior year.
The Acadia Fire club operates year round, playing in league games in Bangor, Waterville and Camden. In the spring, teams continue to participate in league games as well as two tournaments, one being the Coastal Challenge in Brunswick, the other taking place in Amherst, N.H. They are still looking for players of all ages to join teams for the fall season. Email [email protected] or visit www.acadiafiresoccer.com.