Friday June 28, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Edwin de Bruijn and his gang of friends had long-enjoyed playing soccer on a Putney team the group had formed years ago. But as de Bruijn -- who coaches the BUHS girls varsity soccer team -- and his aging comrades found it harder to keep up with the emerging youth who challenged the "old men" in the same summer league, they decided they needed to get more folks their age involved.

"We couldn’t keep up with the youngsters," said de Bruijn, who has also coached the Brattleboro Storm U-14 girls soccer program, and has played for the Townshend soccer league. "We needed something we could all play, co-ed."

So de Bruijn, along with his soccer pals, realized that possibility into fruition, and six years later, de Bruijn’s summer league continues to draw crowds to the School for International Training (SIT) for the annual Summer Solstice Tournament.

This year’s tourney will take place Wednesday, July 3, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. A DJ will provide tunes, and refreshments will be available.

"It’s only a little competitive," said de Bruijn. "That’s what we like about it -- we organize the event ourselves."

That’s right. No interference from refs or other undesirables while games are being played on one of SIT’s three pristine futbol fields.

"It’s local, it’s home, and it’s a beautiful place," said de Bruijn, who moved to Vermont from the Netherlands years ago.

The league has seven players on each squad, and it all started out with eight teams. Now there’s a dozen of them.

After this year’s Solstice celebration, general play will resume every Wednesday, from 6 to 8 p.m. at SIT.

"Play is very informal, low key," said de Bruijn. "People make their own calls, and we don’t keep score."

No refs, remember.

One place there will be officials though is at this year’s Lion’s Twin State Soccer Cup, an annual tournament held at Franklin Pierce University, in Ringe, N.H. The event pits Vermont’s top players against New Hampshire’s, and the rosters are determined by league coaches. In 2012, Vermont swept the doubleheader for the first time in 14 years. The Cup is set to take place July 20.

Brattleboro has some recent high school graduates who will represent the Green Mountain State this year in Ringe. They are Jackson Batchelder, Galen Finnerty, and Halie Lange.

Other previous alum can be usually be seen Wednesdays at SIT, and include Hannah Svec and Libby Fortier. Paul Sather, coach of the Brattleboro boys soccer team, and both Leland & Gray soccer coaches, Chris Barton and Mike Finegan, also come out to play.

There are 150 players out there on any given Wednesday, claims de Bruijn.

And with SIT’s global appeal, players from Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon, and other distant lands, often demonstrate their awesome skills to their American counterparts.

de Bruijn plays alongside Bob Lawson and Mike Collins, when he’s not making sure the whole operation is going smoothly. "We’re not in this for the money," said de Bruijn. "Our major costs are for paint and use of field. This brings a single player’s cost down to about $1 to play for the night."

Any extra funds collected at the end of the season are reinvested into the program, said de Bruijn. This year, new goals adorn the fields, and a scholarship fund may be set up sometime in the future.

David Aquino can be reached at daquino@reformer.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.