Sunday September 2, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The view from West Street looked like a music festival had descended on Pittsfield.

As it does every Labor Day weekend, the Berkshire Kickoff Classic took over at Berkshire Community College on Saturday. More than 60 youth soccer teams arrived in the city for the two-day event Saturday. Tents lined the parking lot while armies of soccer players, overseen by officials in their bright uniforms, dotted an array of fields on BCC's campus. The Pittsfield High School girls varsity team scrimmaged Belmont on the complex's main field, completing a soccer festival that featured youth players of just about any age.

"I think it's a great way to open the whole, entire soccer season," said Heather Tierney, a coach and parent with the Pittsfield Soccer Club. "It starts with the high school kids playing [Friday] night, little introductory games. Everybody sees each other on this first weekend."

The event is put on by PSC, a group that started in 2004 and now has around 400 players across several programs, according to club president and tournament co-director Ed Robinson. Now that many of the athletes playing for the city's high schools have graduated from the PSC program, Robinson said some of the proceeds from the tournament go to the booster clubs for six high school programs.

Many high school players volunteered their time on Saturday, including several members of the Pittsfield girls who transitioned from playing in that scrimmage to refereeing youth games.

"It's great," Robinson said. "We actually have a number of girls that are playing in college. ... [Friday] night was kind of cool, because you come out and see all the boys and girls who, sometimes you lose track. You don't see them for a bit and all of a sudden they're grown. That's why we all do it. It's seeing where these kids can go."

The tournament also brings soccer families together. While Morgan Matthews, a junior defender for the Generals, was scrimmaging on the main field, her younger brother Quinn, 13, was preparing for his own game.

"A lot of people show up every year," Quinn said. "It's always a big turnout. It's just nice to come and watch everyone play."

Quinn was playing on an adjacent field just as Morgan was cooling down from the varsity scrimmage. She said she remembers playing at the Classic since she was 8 years old.

"It was, like, the funnest tournament ever," Morgan, 16, said. "We've all just been looking around, watching these kids play. We're like, ‘Wow, we were once that age. We were once playing in this.' It's just fun to come back and see all these other kids playing."

It's just as much fun for the younger kids. Quinn said he likes cheering on some friends that are starting out in high school. Isabella Arace, another 13-year-old playing for PSC, said it's exciting to see what it's like playing high school soccer.

Tierney has seen how the Classic unites all ages with her children ranging from a high school freshman to a 7-year-old competing in the U-10 division.

"It's fun to watch every division," she said. "You see the differences in the growth. You can look from this point right here and see all the skill levels. ... I think this is beautiful, all these fields, all these families here."

To reach Christopher James:
cjames@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @BECJ2K