Football is the king of southern Lafourche Parish — and likely always will be.
The South Lafourche High School football team has won two state championships in its proud history and dozens of players from the program have ascended to the next level, including LSU football coach Ed Orgeron.
But helmets and shoulder pads aren’t for everyone and local youth sport coaches are making a push down the bayou to let kids know that, heck, it’s OK for Tarpons to play futbol, too.
There’s a push to generate interest in soccer down the bayou, as part of the Lafourche Soccer League, which has been around since 1989 and which features roughly 600 local kids each year.
But only about 60 of those kids are from southern reaches of the parish and coaches want parents to know that more are welcome in the future as continued efforts are made to grow the sport in the future.
“The League is making a push to grow the club further south and one thing that is being looked at is having games played at the Larose Civic Center,” said Colin Skinner, a coach in the Soccer League. “This year, we will begin playing games again there. The only way to grow the League in the South Lafourche area and to have games played is by having more kids sign up. The more kids who sign up, the more teams we have to play.”
A turnaround like the one Skinner and others are seeking isn’t all too unfamiliar down in South Lafourche.
They just have to look at recent history to find what they’re looking for.
About 10 years ago, youth coaches in the southern Lafourche Parish made a push to grow volleyball in that area — a grassroots movement made by a handful of coaches in the area.
Before that time, hardly anyone played the sport year-round — and it showed. The Lady Tarpons’ volleyball team had not made the playoffs in the decades-long history of its program.
But that movement changed that and now, dozens play competitively throughout their childhood.
The first wave of those kids are either just graduated from South Lafourche High School now or are currently still in the program.
On the floor, South Lafourche is now a local power, having made two-straight trips to the Pontchartrain Center and the State Quarterfinals.
“It wouldn’t be happening if they weren’t playing more down there at younger ages,” longtime H.L. Bourgeois volleyball coach Peter Verret said. “It’s just been a joy to see.”
In soccer, the same can be proven true.
As the Lafourche Soccer League has grown, the same results have shown.
Recently, the Central Lafourche girls’ soccer team has been hot, making two-straight deep playoff pushes. Practically all of those children are byproducts of the Lafourche Soccer League, which has grown from 350 to 600 participants in the past half-decade. E.D. White is also a powerhouse (both boys and girls) and most of their kids play from the first days of their childhood.
In Terrebonne, the Houma-Terrebonne Soccer Association also has the same blueprint. As they’ve grown, so, too, has the local youth scene with Vandebilt constantly pushing for titles and others seeking playoff contention.
“It is very important for kids to start playing at a young age,” Skinner said. “The answer is two-fold. For one, it encourages activity and with the obesity issues in this area, soccer is a great sport to help with that. And for two, fundamentals are learned at an earlier age, so as they get older, perfection of skill increases as well as learning new skills once fundamentals are mastered.”
Skinner said he hopes to see a similar growth in southern Lafourche because the soccer league has a good thing going.
Games are played at the Raceland Complex, which is made up of 19 fields. There are age groups for children of all ages to play.
When the season ends, there are also summer programs and a high school summer league — all designed to foster the skills of area kida.
In southern Lafourche, the goal is to host games and continue to get participation.
The Lafourche Soccer League is all-in. They’ve donated goals for practice fields at the Larose Civic Center and the mission is to keep having enough teams in that part of the parish to host games.
Now, it’s up to parents and kids to buy-in and sign up.
“The number of South Lafourche kids varies each year,” Skinner said. “We have seen an increase the past two years, particularly with the youngest age group. We hope to increase these numbers again next year.”