When the Montclair United Soccer Club’s main field in Brookdale Park became unsuitable for play this fall, it left more than a thousand local youth soccer players without a place to practice or play. To the great relief of the players and the gratitude of the club’s organizers, Montclair State University’s Department of Athletics came to the rescue.
Rob Chesney, Montclair State’s associate director of athletics, heard about the club’s plight and decided to help. He arranged to allow the club to run its program at the University’s Sprague Field thus giving the players a place to practice and play their games.
This latest collaboration between the University and the local community was a first in the relationship between the two. Although community members have long had access to many of Montclair State’s facilities, programs, events, and services, this was the first time that a local athletic organization was allowed to run its program at Sprague Field.
“It was a godsend,” declared Mitchell Heisler, co-president of the Montclair United Soccer Club. “Rob and the department’s staff…went out of their way to accommodate us and we are grateful to them.” The club organizes programs for some 1,600 youth soccer players from kindergarten to high school age, reaching one in six school age children in Montclair.
Heisler said Chesney also invited the club’s players to a women’s soccer game at Montclair State which they could watch for free. Afterward, the women’s team met the youngsters and signed programs for them. Many of the players and their families turned out for the game. “It was a wonderful thing to be able to offer our members,” Heisler added.
According to Heisler, the club is excited about its new relationship with the University and is eager to further strengthen ties in the future. “We hope that the University will see the club as an important point of connection between itself and its students, and the community around it,” he said.
Chesney agreed: “Our philosophy is if we can help out the local community, and especially youth organizations, we’d like to do that. This was a real good opportunity; it’s a great program and there are good people running the club.”
Although the current soccer season is over, Chesney said the University expects to make Sprague Field available to the club once again when play resumes in the spring.