The Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks, a nonprofit, volunteer organization, has been developing youth soccer players of all ages and skill levels in North County since 1970. Since that time, the sport has grown substantially in the United States.
“The game is getting bigger and bigger and it’s gaining more and more traction,” said Warren Barton, the Sharks technical director and coach. “More people are falling in love with the game.”
For competitive players, the Sharks are a member organization in the Elite Club National League, which showcases boys and girls trying to make it to the college level or the national team. Sharks players in multiple age groups compete in state and regional tournaments.
Sharks coaches have experience playing in Division I college programs and in professional leagues around the world. The club prioritizes the development of each individual player over team success, but believes team success results from each player reaching his or her maximum potential.
One of the program’s recent success stories is former Sharks player Sam Staab, currently a player on the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, who was nominated for the Rookie of the Year award last season.
There is also a Sharks College Program that provides guidance for players who want to play in college soccer programs in all divisions, in addition to camps and clinics for players of all ages and skill levels.
The Sharks recreational program offers opportunities for players of all skill levels from ages 6 to 19 to play in fall, winter and spring leagues.
“I’m not going to put a kid in a program that is not going to make him or her successful,” said Barton, who played professionally in the English Premier League for clubs including Wimbledon FC, Newcastle United, Derby County & Queens Park Rangers.
Barton has been with the Sharks for nearly 10 years, and had a chance to coach his children as they went through the program. He said the Sharks’ strong ties in the local community and emphasis on each child’s growth and development attracted him to the organization.
Barton, who also played for the English National Team, added that winning games is important, but the Sharks also want to offer something for players who “play this game just for the love of it.”
“We offer something for everyone,” added Shannon Mac Millan, executive director and coach of the Sharks.
Mac Millan spent 12 years playing for the U.S. women’s national team, scoring 60 goals in 176 games and winning a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and a silver medal in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. Mac Millan, who is also a 1999 World Champion, was the 2002 U.S. soccer female athlete of the year. She was also selected as one of nine 2019 Escondido Forever Legends by the Escondido History Center.
“It’s up to me now to give back to the game,” she said.
Mac Millan also noted the growth in the game of soccer and interest in the Sharks competitive, recreational and camp offerings.
“We’ve come a long way, and it’s really important we stay true to our roots of being a community-based club,” she said.
For more information, visit dmcvsharks.com.
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