West: Is Cannon Co. ready for soccer?

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Count me among those who missed out on the Summer Olympics.

It's not that I wasn't interested. For some inexplicable reason, my TV can't pick-up Channel 4 which carries NBC. Nope, we dropped cable over a year ago due to the ever increasing cost factor.

Yes, we did see bits and pieces of Olympic coverage and learned of the exploits of athletes like swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles. Wow!

While, the U.S. dominated the games (and no doubt the coverage) stars like Usain Bolt did manage to crush the opposition. Usain was so fast that TV news clips managed to capture his races even in super-slow motion. Dubbed "The Lightning Bolt," he is the fastest human ever. Unless you count special effects and I suppose 'The Flash' holds the record. (Yes, my TV does pick up 'The Flash' on CW for no apparent reason.)

Naturally, the news seemed to be more interested in the misdeeds of swimmer Ryan Lochte who managed to end his highly paid career and embarrass the USA all at the same time.

TV news, and the internet, need to find something else to dwell on.


Speaking of positive and negative sports news, Cannon County seems to be on a roll.

The latest bit of good news is the plan to turn unusable industrial land into soccer fields and perhaps a cross-country running track.

Once completed, the new facility will serve as a big plus for Cannon County sports at a low cost. Volunteers are already lining up to help with this noteworthy project.

Soccer is a sport best learned at an early age. That is why nearby Rutherford County has so many youngsters that excel at the sport. There are multiple soccer leagues there and they begin at age 3 and continue through adult ages. It is amazing to see some of those youngsters move the ball with just their feet.

No wonder it seems like there's a soccer field on nearly every corner in Murfreesboro! That's not saying Cannon County needs to copy its neighbor. I'm simply referring to it because I've got grandkids involved in the programs.

Cannon County needs to start slow locally with a couple of practice fields which could mark the beginning of a local soccer league. Murfrees-boro's program began, not in the schools, but with a small league first operating out of St. Rose Catholic Church. These few teams slowly spread to the point now there's even competing leagues.

So why soccer?

Compared to most organized sports, soccer is very simple. At its most basic, players don't touch the ball with their hands while trying to get it into the other team's net. Of course, there are other rules like offside but it isn't as complex as baseball or football.

Soccer is also inexpensive. At its simplest form, all you need is a soccer ball and something to mark the goal. It can be played by as few as two people or expanded to a full team. Of course, you really need shin guards and proper shoes, but the sport is relatively injury free.

In 2009, about 88,000 children aged 5-14 were treated for soccer related injuries in the US. Nearly 110,000 were treated for baseball related injuries, 170,000 for basketball injuries and whopping 215,000 for football.

For that and many other reasons, soccer is the world's most popular sport out distancing, baseball, basketball and yes ... football.

It is estimated there are approximately 250 million soccer players and over 1.3 billion people "interested" in the sport. A combined television audience of more than 26 billion recently watched soccer's premier tournament, the quadrennial month-long World Cup finals. Like it or not, it is, like I said, the world's top sport.

While it is unlikely to ever surpass basketball or football in Cannon County, it will be interesting to see how soccer fairs locally.

With a little support and lots of enthusiasm, it could take off.

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Mike West, soccer
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