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Soccer is a sport, that for all the glory and appreciation it has found in virtually every country in the world, it has yet to come close to that type of prominence here in the United States.

While plenty of local youngsters are playing soccer on club teams and at school, there are still many others who put the sport down due to its lack of offensive scoring. One local soccer school is not only doing everything it can to change those misconceptions, but it’s also creating some pretty good players as well.

The New England Soccer School at Amesbury Sports Park ( ), located on 12 South Hunt Road in Amesbury, is quickly becoming a haven for budding soccer players, coaches, and officials. It’s also teaching parents who grew up playing baseball, football, and basketball an understanding of this game, too.

“I started this about five years ago by proposing it to the town,” says Ted Dipple, owner and president of the school.

Unfortunately, Amesbury had been burned by a bad experience with another soccer program in the area.

“There had been complaints by neighbors,” Dipple explains, “and somebody else coming in with a soccer plan was the last thing anybody wanted to see.”

Despite these difficulties, however, Dipple was allowed to open his program in the late spring of 2004.

“We had two teams begin in 2004,” says Brian Kelley, director of coaching. “It grew to five teams by the spring of last year, and even more now.”

Today, the school serves nearly 150 boys and girls from all over the region.

“What we are is a conglomeration of the best town players,” Kelley suggests. “We provide a wide range of coaching and instruction, and we’re hoping to have one of the top clubs in New England.”

From April 25 to May 23, the Tots Program will introduce children aged 3-6 to the wonders of the game that most of the world calls “football.”

On Memorial Day weekend, the school will send some of its players to participate with hundreds of other teams in the Cape Cod Challenge Cup in Sandwich, MA. For the third summer in a row, coaches from Everton FC, a club from the English Premier League, will come to offer a three-week clinic.

“I was introduced to one of the coaches of Everton by Jeff Tipping, the director of coaching in the National Soccer Association of America,” says Dipple, who himself has been playing soccer for close to 60 years. “I was very impressed with their coaching philosophy, and I asked them to come up and educate our youngsters. They’ve really opened up a lot of peoples’ eyes, and are on a different planet when it comes to soccer. It’s really exciting to see how they can help improve the skill level of those that take part in the camp.”

Though summer is high season for soccer, Dipple has made it possible for players of all ages and abilities to continue to work on their skills throughout the year. He has done so by opening Sports Turf International, an indoor arena that features artificial turf on three fields, ranging in size from 30 by 40 yards to 75 by 120 yards.

“Our turf is faster than the old grass,” says Kelley, who played professionally in Ireland, and who also coached the men’s and women’s teams at Defiance College (Ohio) for four years before coming up to the school in 2005, “and it’s rubber-based. The ball takes a true bounce – We even have had rugby matches on it!”

“With this surface, we’ll become a major force in soccer camps throughout New England,” says school administrator Adam Hendy, who also played professionally in the Scottish League with the Glasgow Celtic Rangers. “We’ve also been contacted by a number of schools and associations across New England to push this type of turf.”

Whether its on grass or turf, however, one of the goals of the school is to make better players of those who attend through the four major components of the development that the school stresses: technique, athleticism, leadership, and tactics.

“In soccer, the size doesn’t matter except at certain positions,” says Dipple. “Usually at defense, you want to have that height advantage, but you can always find a spot on any team, regardless of size.”

Dipple added that soccer is also an inexpensive game that is played and enjoyed around the world.

“It’s a very easy sport for anyone to get into,” he says.

In addition to helping the players improve, the school also trains coaches and referees.

“It’s a true comprehensive soccer education center,” Dipple says. “We want to coach coaches and referees, and we also have lessons for parents as well.”

Although soccer is a competitive sport, Dipple emphasizes that the real point of the school is to encourage people to improve and to have fun.

“It’s great to get the whole family, having fun together,” he says, “and after a year of training up here, you can really see the improvement before your eyes!”