Summer soccer team enjoys growth in its second season

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

There’s a good chance that Micah Brown won’t play a single minute for the Danville Locomotive, but he’s still having a good summer.

Brown is one of a handful of high school players who were invited to train with the Locomotive, the under-23 amateur soccer team that consists primarily of collegiate players.

The addition of Brown and his peers serves to help them prepare to play the game at a higher level, and to help the Locomotive deepen their roots in its second summer in Danville.

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“We really want this to be a community, something that our community likes and our local players can participate in,” said Brian Little, one of the team’s four local owners.

It’s more personal for Brown, a rising senior at Boyle County who aspires to play at the collegiate level.

“It’s a great experience,” Brown said. “I feel like it’s prepared me well, getting to play with older guys. It’s more physical, it’s a lot more physical than the level that I’m playing at.”

The players who are on the field and the owners and coaches have made the Locomotive stronger than they were in their debut season, when the team was put together in just a few weeks.

“I think we’re just better prepared,” Little said. “We were able to schedule things a lot earlier, and certainly you can see it in our roster size. We were able to contact kids earlier … and get some really good quality players.”

Coach Tate Spivey, a Harrodsburg native who returns for a second season along with assistant coach Wyatt Durbin, said better preparation has made for a better experience for the players.

“It makes it easier for us to get to training, it makes it easier for us to set a standard for the guys to follow,” Spivey said. “Our attendance this year is 100 times better than it was last year, and we’re not struggling to convince kids to come. (We’re) picking guys who want to be here for the right seasons.”

The active roster includes nine Centre College players, and most of the rest of the players come from close by, including Danville alumni Alec and Iain McAlister.

The list of 24 players includes about 15 who were part of the Locomotive’s first season, and Little said their history with the team and their willingness to share their experiences allowed the team to get a few players it might not have gotten otherwise.

The result is a team that Spivey said has been easier to coach.

“It’s good to have guys coming back because they know what the standard is, they know what to expect,” he said. “It’s much easier to facilitate through them, delegate a little bit and it makes an easier transition for the new guys.”

However, he said it has also forced some difficult decisions.

“Wyatt and I are always in a position on weekends where we have to pick the best 11, and it makes it tough for us because they are all committed and they’re all here for the right reason,” Spivey said.

The Locomotive went 4-5-1 last summer to finish fifth in the nine-team Ohio Valley Premier League. This year’s team entered July with a 3-2-2 record and were fourth out of 11 teams with three regular-season games remaining, including two home games at Centre’s Amend Field:

  • 5 p.m. Sunday vs. Metro FC.
  • 6 p.m. July 13 vs. Indy Saints.

“I think all around we’re having a better experience this year. We just need to grow from here,” Spivey said.

The addition of the high school players has been part of that growth. Brown, Boyle teammate Bo Little and two players from Lexington schools have joined the team for practices.

“I think that’s good for the program going forward,” Spivey said. “We want to get guys involved that are local, and it’s a bit more attractive to the community as well when you see somebody’s name you know.”

Brown said what he learns with the Locomotive should help him not only at the next level, but also in his senior season at Boyle.

“I’m usually a leader on my team, but now I get to experience being led by older guys. There’s a lot of coaching going on, and with the older guys trying to lead me I’m getting positive and negative feedback,” he said. “I can learn from them and take their examples and I can apply that to being a leader on my high school team, my club team.”

Both Brown and Spivey said the older players aren’t holding back on the high-schoolers.

“They’ve said some of the guys are tough on them, but usually the guys that are tough on them are the ones that are singing their praises,” Spivey said.

Spivey said the goal is to have as many as eight to 10 high school players in the program each year, and he said any of those who are on the team now or in the future could earn playing time.

“If one of the high school guys steps up and has a good week of training, I don’t think Wyatt and I are against putting them on the field to perform,” he said.

The four players aren’t the only high school students involved with the Locomotive. McLain Denny, another Boyle soccer player, is the team’s media manager, and he and fellow students who help produce webcasts for the Boyle County Sports Network are staffing the press box on game days.

“It’s been great, and it gives them a good experience,” Little said.