A little more than five years ago, Andreas Lindberg and Tim Rumph had a vision of what they wanted the sport of soccer to mean to the Southampton community.
That dream has started to come to fruition, thanks to their hard work and the dedication of several other coaches, parents and soccer enthusiasts in the town, who have overseen the Southampton Soccer Club’s transition from a small, parent-based recreational organization to a breeding ground for boys and girls who are serious about the sport that has seen a dramatic increase in popularity recently. The club now has nine travel teams, and includes 180 players. The fee per player for the season is $245.
Teams start at the U7 level and go up to U17, and it has also seen steady growth in the numbers of girls teams as well.
Rumph has been the club’s president for the last six years, and took over as president right around the time Lindberg became involved. A native of Sweden who played at Southampton College, Lindberg later coached the men’s team there and now coaches the men’s soccer team at C.W. Post University. He is viewed by many as a soccer ambassador of sorts around the East End.
He’s the owner and operator of Colonial Sports Group, which provides professional soccer training for the myriad boys and girls Long Island Juniors teams that are part of the Southampton Soccer Club. He employs several soccer coaches including: current Southampton boys varsity assistant coach Gary Easlick, a native of England who played at Southampton College; Southampton resident Karl Rumph, who played at St. Anthony’s High School and the University of Connecticut; and Brandon Quinn, who was a star player for Hampton Bays High School several years ago.
Rumph and Southampton resident Chris LaGuardia, who has also served as president of the club in the past, were responsible for getting Lindberg and his cohorts involved in the organization. They wanted to take the players to the next level and provide a level of professional training and soccer expertise that they simply couldn’t offer as parents.
The Colonial Sports Group conducts practice sessions with players in the club at Downes Family Park in Southampton, with teams receiving a minimum of one professional training session each week. Some teams, including the ones that play in the more competitive divisions of the LIJ league, are trained by the professional coaches up to three times a week. The teams then play in games across Long Island on the weekends, with a season’s slate of games in both the spring and fall.
Both Rumph and Lindberg agree that having professional training has allowed the teams and players to become more competitive and, in turn, has led to the spike in numbers at the club.
“There are more kids playing and the parents have been educated throughout the process and they realize this is not just a town league or rec league,” Lindberg explained. “It’s a big commitment, and they like the fact that it’s competitive and the kids are developing.”
Lindberg said that while he and Rumph had the dream to turn the Southampton Soccer Club into something bigger, it was a dream that was also driven by the parents in the community.
“They wanted to see the club grow,” Lindberg said.
While the club caters specifically to children from Southampton Town, it is open to anyone who wants to join. Lindberg pointed out that a player from Mattituck joined one of the U14 teams, and he estimated that about 15 percent of the players are from New York City. Because the actual games are played on the weekends, part-time residents are able to fit them into their schedules.
With growth, of course, has come the need for fundraising. Each member of the club pays an annual fee, which includes the uniform, training and other costs, but with such a burst in growth, Lindberg and Rumph say that the club needs to purchase new equipment, such as soccer goals. They’d also like to start a scholarship fund, to help ensure that no player will be turned away because he or she can’t afford it.
“We don’t ever want to turn anybody away, and we never have yet,” Lindberg said.
The growth of the club is also exciting for Lindberg because it keeps the area talent where it belongs, he said. More players has meant the club can field more LIJ teams, and that those teams can compete at the higher divisions. Therefore, the more talented individuals increasingly don’t need to seek out soccer clubs further up the island to accommodate their skill levels.
Lindberg added that he’s also been very happy with the progress the club has been making in terms of increased participation by girls. The club now has three girls travel teams, and Lindberg gave a lot of credit to Patricia Kab for being the catalyst in that area. Kab moved to the area from New Jersey several years ago and reached out to Lindberg because she was seeking more opportunity for her daughter, Dillon Kab, to play travel soccer. Ms. Kab works closely with the girls U15 team, and Lindberg said he expects the club to add a new girls team each year.
Easlick, who is one of the most involved coaches, said he couldn’t be happier with the progress the club has made. As the Southampton boys varsity assistant, he’s been able to witness first-hand the benefits the youth program provides for the future of the high school teams.
And as a lifelong lover of the sport, he believes the club is providing the players with memories and lessons that will last a lifetime.
“A large proportion of adults have the privilege to look back on their childhood and talk proudly about the sport teams that they played on, and I have a chance to influence that experience for these players now,” Easlick said. “I aim to provide guidance, support and structure for them when learning the game we love and ensure they have a fun, positive and, hopefully, successful playing career to look back on.”