WHITMAN — With hundreds of children on parade, wearing shiny cleats and colorful T-shirts flanked by their coaches and families, traffic in Whitman center stood still as the annual Whitman Youth Soccer parade made their way to the Town Park early Saturday morning.
Kicking off the fall season, WYS celebrated its 40th year in the sport. In attendance were first director of the town league during its inception Marilynn Newcomb and longtime coaches, referees — and past soccer players themselves John Goldrosen, Vinnie and Phyllis Savill, and Richard Terry. The group led the parade stepping off from Whitman fire station proudly displaying the 40th anniversary banner.
Dick Cole, also a coach of 35 years who is the currently with the freshman boys soccer at Whitman-Hanson, spoke at the morning event.
“It’s unbelievable to me,” said Cole seeing the WYS grow over the last forty years. As a past president he recognized several members of WYS who have passed on but are not forgotten in spirit.
“WYS has been building skills, initiative, team work, high standards of fair play and spirit for many years. Try your best and always make sportsmanship your priority,” said Cole.
Mike Newcomb, Marilynn’s son, is now the president of Whitman Youth Soccer taking over the reins after his family was raised playing the sport.
Amid laughs from the crowd Newcomb described their early apparel. “Our uniforms were long, wool sleeve shirts … we had wooden goal posts and it was not fun to line the field in real chalk before each game. My brother Larry and I walked in the first parade here in Whitman soccer,” said Newcomb.
Gathering at the Whitman fire station to line the streets amid a sea of neon T-shirts, a transformation of the times was evident, players wore lightweight, easy dry apparel and fun, patterned knee socks and hair bows to match.
The early years featured four boys’ teams and one girls’ team with the second season jumping to 40 teams, said Marilynn Newcomb, who was observing the immense growth of players around her prior to step-off.
Soccer — known as football in other countries — is by far the healthiest sport on the planet, said Richard Terry. He was a coach for 20 years and referee following his tenure. His children grew up playing soccer in town.
“You can’t learn unless you do, and everyone had to play at least half the game on the town leagues,” he said as he reminisced with his comrades.
Joe Molito and Eric Frank, who were raised in Whitman, are now also taking roles as coaches and board members as their children play soccer.
Frank played WYS, continued his athletic career at Whitman Hanson high school then played in college. He coaches his daughter Emma, 9, and is the director of instructional leagues.
Emma who loves to run said she plays forward position on the field and loves soccer because of the running within the sport.
Several Whitman teams went above and beyond the regular season making their presence known in the playoffs last year. They work was recognized at the morning gathering Saturday.
Five teams went to playoffs last year, said Newcomb. He introduced the young ladies of the Under 16 and Under 18 teams who played in the Massachusetts Team of Champions (MTOC) tournament representing Whitman. They proudly wore white jackets with their names embroidered on the back.
“We wouldn’t be here today without these people who are and always have been volunteers,” Newcomb said.
He read an alphabetized list acknowledging dozens of families who played, volunteered and donated to the organization over the last 40 years.
June and Joe O’ Leary were also recognized for their restoring work at the town park and fields.
The Rev. James Mahoney of the Holy Ghost Church in Whitman and St. Bridget’s Church in Abington opened the event with a prayer of blessing and fair play. Alex Moulthrop, 15, of Kingston sang The National Anthem before a rousing crowd.
View more photos from the event on the Whitman-Hanson Express Facebook page.