Area soccer groups to share field space
By Ron Bush Deputy Sports Editor
The Chattanooga area's two most successful select soccer programs in recent years will now be sharing fields.
Pedro Kozak is moving his private-entity Premier Soccer teams from Middle Valley to Camp Jordan Park, home of theERSA and its Express select teams. One Express team played in the recent 12-state Division 1 regional in Raleigh, N.C., and two played the week before as Tennessee champions in the Division 2 regional in Columbus, Ga.
PSA teams including the Predators and Blaze have won multiple tournament titles throughout the Southeast. Kozak plans to have five teams for the coming year.
Space is a big factor in the PSA move. The Middle Valley association has seven select teams of its own, plus a recreation season upcoming, and only three full-sized fields, and two of those are closed temporarily for maintenance work, according to new association president Kenny Adams.
“We're a relatively small club, and we want to concentrate on our rec program,” Adams said.
Camp Jordan has nine complete outdoor fields and open areas that serve as four more in big tournaments. The complex has hosted the TSSA's last two Division 2 and 3 state tournaments.
“The ERSA is the largest soccer association in the state of Tennessee,” president Mac Helms said, “and we had two fields added in the past year. We have a great relationship with the city of East Ridge.
“All this does is give more teams playing out of Camp Jordan for our players to choose from.”
Like the Express teams, Kozak's will be scheduled for two nights of practice on Camp Jordan fields and sometimes will have more available. He also will continue to use the unlighted fields at North River YMCA as he has since soon after arriving in Chattanooga in 1994, probably once a week for each of his teams.
Kozak was director of coaching for the Middle Valley organization but admitted he had little time for that while coaching six teams this past year. He will be only an unofficial consultant for the East Ridge association, which has Dean Wilson as director of coaching and Andy Wishart in charge of the select program.
Those two joined Helms and Kozak in saying there will be a spirit of cooperation between the programs.
We all want to make this work, and we all feel it can,” Wilson said. “We want to make it good for the kids; we want to make it good for everybody.”
Cass Cole, the manager for one of the PSA teams, noted that “there is an agreement that we're not going to recruit from one another.”
Cole said one of the PSA teams has a substantial percentage of players from the Middle Valley-Hixson area but most are “probably 70 percent from outside Middle Valley,” so the move to the East Ridge complex just off Interstate 75 will be good logistically for many PSA families. The weekly workouts at North River Y on Hixson Pike might help keep others in the program.
Kozak, who lives in Middle Valley, said he expects to lose some players as a result of the move, but he felt he had no other choice.
Ongoing discussions supported by Middle Valley to unify area associations had him nervous about future field availability and PSA’s place, he said. Helms said East Ridge is taking part in those talks, but that development would not affect ERSA's agreement with Kozak. Premier Soccer web site>