NTSSA Combines Soccer, Carnival Games for Year-End Funfest

First impressions are very important — sometimes vital — in capturing the interest and passion of a new activity. That's why the North Texas State Soccer Association (NTSSA) hopes to make a big first impression with the youngest soccer players with its annual Funfest soccer tournament, filled with games and "fun" activities you might find at a local carnival, with a soccer-themed twist.

Tournament director Abbie Craven said this year's Funfest was a great day.

"Other than the heat," she said. "I loved the trophies, the little bender guys, and of course, the face painters. This is all about giving back to the kids. They just loved the balloon artist and the face painter."

And of course, the kids loved the soccer. All the teams, from U5 to U8, played three games (and some, four games) in the one-day event. For some, it is their first experience at a tournament. This tournament helps orient them to the tournament experience and creates a desire to do it again.

Apparently, North Texas is doing a pretty good job. The tournament actually doubled in size this year, to 86 teams — the largest turnout since losing a major sponsor (Tide) several years ago. North Texas used 25 fields at the tournament, which was played at the Warren Soccer Complex in Frisco — of course, for the youngest divisions, three fields can be set up on one full-size field.

The Subaru Tour was at the tournament, and the car-maker offered a game for the parents that was popular.

"The little arm bracelets were popular," Craven said.

How important is the Funfest to North Texas?

"We pretty much use all of our NTX registration fees to fund it," Craven said. "That gets the trophies, pays the referees and brings in the vendors. But this is what we want to do with it. We tell the coaches to be patient — no yelling at the kids allowed — to keep it low-key."

Participation trophies were awarded to all players. There were no losers, scores were not posted and no champions were declared.

"If we teach them now, it will carry over to the next tournament," she said. "And that goes for the coaches, too. For many of them, it is their first tournament."

It is certainly not a first tournament for Craven, who has been working the Funfest since 2004 and has been coaching since her children were of the age they could have played in the Funfest. Now they are out of college and have grandkids ready to play.

The only sad thing? It will be nearly a year until the next Funfest.

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