Big DreamsBy JAMIE MASSENGALE,
When I was growing up, I loved to play soccer. It just so happened that Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker and I were on a State Championship-winning soccer team based out of the Jaycee Soccer Complex in Meridian.
The year we won the Under-12 state championship was actually the same year as World Cup ‘94, which took place in the USA.
Soccer became my jam.
Like most children that age, I was very passionate about soccer. I had big dreams of playing soccer professionally.
Soccer had started getting bigger in the United States and things like Major League Soccer were just getting started.
As I grew older, I kept playing soccer on teams during the summers as well as leagues during the spring and fall.
My dedication was tested one summer, when my mother made me choose between church camp and soccer camp, and I chose soccer camp. I kept chasing these dreams to play the sport I loved so much.
It was during junior high school that I was able to compete in the most fun version of soccer I’d ever played.
One of my friends had inquired about playing in an indoor soccer league in Jackson, at what was then known as The Sports Club.
(The Sports Club was a large metal building that housed an indoor soccer field – much like a hockey rink with walls, AstroTurf and goals that are positioned in the back walls – a basketball court, a concession stand, batting cages, a workout area, and a little store where one could buy soccer apparel.)
For those who might be in the dark about indoor soccer, it is comparable to hockey in that you have an enclosed playing surface with walls to bounce the ball off of.
It’s six-on-six and players can substitute at any time by simply running to the team’s bench.
So anyway, my friend had asked the league coordinators in Jackson if they offered an Under-16 recreation league.
The answer was no, but the league coordinators said we would be allowed to play in an Under-14 select league.
We put together a rag-tag team and for a number of weeks, my friends and I would caravan with our parents to Jackson on Friday nights to play indoor soccer.
Prior to our first match, we were given purple Sports Club t-shirts as jerseys.
Finally, it was time to play. Let me tell you, it was so awesome! It was fast-paced and intense. We outsized these kids and were just as skilled as they were.
We didn’t have a coach like they did and were free to do whatever we wanted.
We were all goal hogs.
The first game we played, I scored 4 of our team’s 17 goals.
We won a lot of games, but there was one team that always had our number, and it was Jackson Football Club (JFC).
Our team didn’t have the depth that some of these club teams had. We would only bring enough to play some games and maybe a sub or two.
Towards the end of the games, we would get sluggish and start getting tired. I fondly remember getting sent to the penalty box a few times for fouling opposing players.
Our team only played two seasons of indoor soccer before high-school soccer took precedence of our lives.
Although my indoor soccer career was brief, the sensation of playing has been ingrained in my memory.
Now in my 30’s, I still long to play indoor soccer again.
In the more recent years, I’ve gotten back into playing tennis. My love for soccer is still there, but being plagued with leg injuries, I am scared to get back on the pitch.
Living in Hattiesburg, and attempting to schedule tennis matches, you become accustomed to rescheduling matches due to weather.
If only we had a facility that allows us to play sports indoors. (LIGHT BULB)
I’ve often told many friends that my big dream in life would be to open an indoor sports facility.
I want to open a facility that houses an indoor soccer field, tennis courts, and a rock-climbing wall.
I want it to have amenities and be stellar. I’m not sure if Hattiesburg is the place for a facility of this magnitude, but it never hurts to start doing market research.
I imagine this facility would be an expensive build.
Could Hattiesburg sustain a business like this or would it have the same fate as The Sports Club in Jackson?
Who’s to say?
But one thing remains the same...
I still want to play indoor soccer.
Jamie Massengale is a native of Meridian who has lived in the Hub City for a number of years. He’s currently a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi.