A youth soccer team made up of players from Glynn County’s Golden Isles Soccer Association went up to Atlanta to compete in the 33rd annual Southern Soccer Academy Chelsea Fall Classic Driven by Yokohama on Nov. 17-18 and came home with a championship in the U9 division.
The SSA Coastal team of Griffin Roberts, Jax Tate, Landon Westall, Grayson Fitzjuris, Grant Coolidge, Henrik Coyle, Hundson Jones, Yates Anderson, Jackson Roberts, Findlay Mosher and Miles Mallon went 4-0 in the tournament, winning its games by a combined score of 20-3.
Two of the club’s victories came, including the championship game, against an Atlanta Fire United team that entered tournament 21-2-3 on the year.
“The tournament was first class,” said SSA Coastal coach Ben Jones. “There were some really competitive teams that we played.”
The SSA is one of a handful of clubs in the U.S. that acts as a “Football Development Partner” with Chelsea Football Club of the English Premier League — one of the most successful clubs in the world, having won 28 major trophies since it was founded in 1905.
“A lot of the training curriculum and a lot of the coaching and everything is streamlined organizationally under the Chelsea umbrella,” Jones said.
SSA Coastal cruised to a pair of 7-1 wins on Day 1 on the tournament before beating Atlanta Fire 4-0 on Day 2. The two met again in the title game and SSA Coastal came out on top again 2-1.
Because of the size of the GISA club relative to the size of the clubs in Atlanta, the SSA Coastal U9 team has been forced to play up an age group against U10 the whole fall season.
Some of the lessons learned playing against older players paid dividends for SSA Coastal once it was matched up against the proper age group.
“Our kids learned how to play with their bodies,” Jones said. “They were pushed around a lot during the fall season and it certainly paid dividends for us when we got into a tournament. Our kids knew how to use their bodies and were used to physical, competitive, aggressive play.”
While the tournament made for a memorable experience for the team from Glynn County, there was one issue Jones felt the SSA and Chelsea FC leadership should address: parent behavior and players’ dissension to officials that was not in alignment with the program’s code of conduct.
“If we allow out of control parents and kids to talk back to referees, what are we teaching them?” Jones said. “We’re setting them up for failure.”