ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond Rush soccer club, run by Keith and Colleen Parsons, is expecting its fourth annual Hwy 55 3v3 Soccer Challenge to be the “biggest one we’ve had yet.”
The way things are shaping up, there will be about 16 to 17 teams across the four divisions (co-ed youth, high school boys, high school girls, open) that’ll compete on the fields at Browder Park next Saturday, July 28, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“It looks like it’s going to be the biggest one one we’ve had yet, which is good, because we’ve kind of grown a bit every year,” Keith Parsons said. “I think it’s a good thing, a good time, and everybody always seems to enjoy it.
“I want to thank the city of Rockingham and its Parks and Recreation Department … for always trying to do anything we ask and really trying to help us make this a big deal,” he added. “The fields are always so great, Mark (Rohleder) really goes all out in painting the logo and things like that, and I’m just really happy that those guys are such a big part of this.”
The 3-on-3 version of the world’s most popular sport features smaller fields, shorter games and more scoring. The playing surface is 40 yards long and 30 yards wide, with each half of the game lasting 10 minutes and a three-minute halftime.
Since each team only has three players at a time on the field, and no one serves as a goalkeeper, everyone on the field gets a chance to play offense and defense — which Keith believes is important as players evolve their skills.
He’s seen how much small-sided soccer has helped his daughter Emily, a rising senior on the Richmond varsity girls soccer team, and a number of other girls who have played with the club.
“The good thing about 3v3 is that everybody has opportunities with the ball and they have to make a decision. That kind of stuff has been so important to development,” he said. “It’s a much faster-paced version of the game … and it’s just cool to have teams scoring a lot of goals, so games aren’t generally (ending with a score of) 2-1.”
J.R. Cottle and Hwy 55 Burgers Shakes & Fries of Rockingham will be sponsoring the event for the third year in a row, but the open division now has its own sponsor in Charles Hudson — who originally came to Parsons with the idea of creating a 3v3 soccer team — and his business, Unique Auto Sales of Hamlet.
Again, Mari Bennett from LMO Paradise Rentals will bring a water slide to help cool off during the near five-hour event.
“It’ll be a little bit of a festival-type atmosphere out there,” Parsons said. “Everyone sets up their tents and just kind of hangs out during the day to watch some good soccer.”
Every year, the soccer club gives all of the tournament’s proceeds and donations to a certain cause, project, foundation, etc. that positively affects those in the community.
This time around, the “Impact Backpack” program created by Brett Bowers and Justus Ellerbe — both 2016 graduates of Richmond Senior High School — will receive the tournament’s proceeds. Through the program, Bowers and Ellerbe collect school and food items to give out to families around the county as the school year approaches.
“When they announced what they were doing, we thought it was a great idea. I’ve know Brett and his family for years and thought it’d be great to partner with them, and they willingly accepted our help,” Parsons said. “I’m just happy to do it and I’m really proud of those young men for what they’re doing for the community.”
Parsons says he hopes to have everything, in terms of team registration, in by Wednesday, July 18, but will accept new signups until Friday, July 20.
For more information, contact him on Facebook at “Keith Parsons.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.