The Putnam Impact Soccer Club…
Putnam Impact plays home games in the city of Eatonton, the county seat of Putnam County which is located within 90 minutes of Atlanta, Augusta, Athens and Macon. The Teams compete in some of the toughest divisions in Georgia Soccer - against teams from much larger cities that apply more selectivity in choosing top players; charge significantly higher annual registration fees to support team activities; and, have access to greater resources via sponsorships from businesses for coach salaries, equipment, uniforms, tournament fees, etc.
By contrast to these larger cities, Eatonton is a rural community of 6,530, not known as a soccer town. The soccer club faces significant financial challenges serving youth in a county with the 2nd highest unemployment rate in Georgia (8.6%); lower median household incomes than the Georgia average; and, 85% of children in the school district qualifying for the subsidy lunch program.
Over 75% of the Impact Soccer Club families can’t afford any type of registration fee. As a result, Putnam Impact coaches are currently the only unpaid coaches in the league. Yet our five coaches have remained steadfast in their commitment to advancing soccer and providing a competitive league experience for youth in the community who would not otherwise have this opportunity.
Further, as most families cannot afford expenses incurred for new uniforms, equipment or travel, our coaches and managers work alongside parents to run local fund raisers. They transport many players to practice and often personally cover expenses incurred for travel to games and tournaments to ensure these young people have the opportunity to experience soccer, teamwork and league competition.
In addition to teaching the fundamentals soccer, our Putnam Impact Soccer Club coaches strive to develop leadership and life skills to support long term systematic change. To this end, they provide a positive, team-building environment while setting expectations regarding conduct both on and off the field. Bernabe Meraz , a player on the U13 team, summed up his Putnam Impact Soccer Club experience as “It is a ‘life program’ disguised as a soccer club”. Those familiar with coaches, practices and expectations understand firsthand what this means.
Players must maintain an A/B average to be on the team and must be reading at a level one grade higher than the grade they are in. This is reinforced during practices, which begin with completing homework before hitting the field for 2 – 2½ hours.
Soccer fans and opponents won’t hear obscenities or booing from these team members, as sportsmanship expectations include respect for oneself, teammates and competitors alike. In-turn, these young players from diverse socio-economic and multi-cultural backgrounds are an inspirational group.
Facing difficult challenges in their daily lives, they are making good life choices, adhering to educational expectations and demonstrating excellent sportsmanship through mutual respect towards one another.
Together, the Putnam Impact Soccer Club teams have persevered to accomplish amazing feats; competing in some of the toughest divisions in Georgia Soccer.
In the Fall 2015 season, the first season for the club, the 2001 (Under 16) team had an impressive record of 10 Wins, 2 Ties and 3 Losses and was invited and won the McDonald’s Cup.
The Fall 2016 Putnam Impact 2004 team (Under 13 or U13) achieved 11 wins, 4 ties and only 3 losses in their first season together.
This included receiving an invitation to and winning the Georgia Soccer D3 Championship Cup (sponsored by Publix). They finished 2016 as the top ranked Classic V U13 team in the State of Georgia. In the Spring 2017 season, the 2004 team’s second season together, the team completed their Georgia Soccer Season with a record of 10 wins, 2 ties and 3 losses, and ranked third among all Classic IV teams.
The most recent highlight came when they claimed the Atlanta Peach Classic Championship on May 20-21, 2017. They entered the prestigious tournament as the 7th ranked Classic IV team in Georgia Soccer in their age class.
There were 1 of 12 teams in their division at the tournament. The team won each of their games and then claimed victory over the Georgia Storm team from Carrolton who, in their seventh season together, was ranked 1st and had not lost a regular season game in three seasons.
Given the successes of the team coupled with additional press coverage, enthusiasm and support from the local community continues to grow.