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Granite Bay senior coordinates Youth Soccer Night

Kyle Howarth's effort helps soccer match draw a crowd of more than 1,000
By: Bill Poindexter
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Two young boys dribbled a soccer ball back and forth on the track. An even younger boy asked his dad for a Gatorade – over and over again. An excited little girl spotted two arriving friends and called out their names. All the while, people of all ages trickled into the home side of Granite Bay High School’s football stadium and gradually filled the seats. Individuals, friends, families and teams – loads and loads of teams, all in uniform – accepted Kyle Howarth’s invitation to attend Youth Soccer Night last Wednesday. “This will be the biggest crowd we’ve had at a Granite Bay soccer game,” athletic director Tim Healy said as the clock wound down on the Granite Bay-Whitney junior varsity game, prelim to the main event. “What I really like is the integration of the youth with our programs. What a great way to play a soccer game. It’s probably good for Whitney as well.” Howarth, a team captain and defender on Granite Bay’s varsity soccer team and a 17-year-old senior, coordinated the event as a community services project he wasn’t obligated to perform, having already met his requirement. Howarth remembered attending past youth soccer nights as a player probably 10 or 11 years old. He remembered wearing his Placer United jersey and entering the stadium to watch Granite Bay play. It also stuck with him that the school hadn’t held the event in five or six years. “I just felt like doing this as a little extra,” he said as people filed in and the volume of feet trampling on Granite Bay’s aluminum bleachers increased during the JV game. “It seemed like a cool idea.” People warmed up to the “cool” idea. A crowd estimated at about 200 early in the JV game swelled to about 500 in the second half. The number was more than 1,000 by the time Granite Bay was on its way to a 6-0 victory over Whitney in the varsity game. “People just kept coming. Some (youth) teams had practice until 7. After 7, all these teams just kept coming,” said John Howarth, Kyle’s dad and president of the Booster Club for soccer. “We sold every bottle of water, Gatorade, hot dog, hamburger. We were overwhelmed by the crowd.” The soccer team usually plays on an adjacent field, so Howarth had to secure the football stadium. He had to seek approval for having soccer lines painted on the artificial turf field. He had to recruit an announcer (and a microphone) and workers to sell snacks and Grizzly Gear. Howarth made up fliers promoting the event and attended local youth tournaments to distribute them. He met with league leaders to spread the word to its teams. “Any time you’re doing something on a campus, there’s always a bureaucracy involved,” said Healy, Howarth’s advisor for the project. “From his perspective, it should have been real easy to do everything. But even putting paint on an artificial field – very difficult to do. It has to be a specific paint. It has to be approved by the vendors, because you’re looking at a half-million-dollar field out there. “Really, this is Kyle. It’s a good way to connect the community and the young kids to the school. We want to foster a sense of community here. Kyle’s the kind of kid who can do that and do it well.” Howarth included all the bells and whistles. On top of securing the football stadium, he arranged for the game to be played under the lights, always popular with kids. Halftime of the JV and varsity games consisted of two short matches between youth teams. Kids shagged loose balls and accompanied the players for pregame introductions. There was a 50/50 raffle. “To see little kids come, it’s really amazing, because I had no idea who would show up,” said Howarth, who hopes to attend UC Davis or UC Santa Barbara next fall. “There’s some loyal fans that are always there, but there will definitely be more people tonight at this game than there will have ever been. This makes it all the more cool under the lights. We’re not like football. We don’t draw a huge crowd. The team always likes to have a lot of fans, ya know?” Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com.