Former SSYSL President Fred Booth honored by league
By George Austin/Editor
SOMERSET — For a person who admitted that he did not know anything about the sport when he first came to the league, Fred Booth has had a huge impact on the Swansea-Somerset Youth Soccer League.
Booth has volunteered to do work in the league for the past 21 years and just finished up being the president of the SSYSL for the past 11 years. At the league's opening day on Saturday at the North Elementary School fields, Booth was honored with gifts in appreciation of all the work he has done for the league.
David Gaspar, the new president of the SSYSL, said Booth is "very, very special" to everyone in the league. He said Booth has done so much for so many people and has touched a lot of lives. Gaspar said everyone in the league is very fond of Booth who he said is a very unassuming guy.
"He's been the epitome of what it's all about to be a good citizen, a good role model, someone we can all look up to," Gaspar said.
In taking over for Booth as president, Gaspar said he has some big shoes to fill.
"This is about the kids and to continue the legacy he started," Gaspar said.
During the opening day ceremony on Saturday, league treasurer Gary Mello presented Booth with a gift certificate to a restaurant. Mello said it is unbelievable what Booth has done for the league over the years.
"I spoke to the new president and said if you do half of what Fred did, you'll be doing a great job," Mello said.
Booth was also presented with a plaque from the league and a photograph of one of the travel teams he coached. Josh Davies, the director of referees for the league, presented Booth with a British Soccer Camp ball signed by all the coaches of the league. The league has sponsored the British Soccer Camp coming to the area over the years during Booth's tenure as president.
"There's not a better person or anyone who has given as much to this league as he has," Davies said as he spoke in front of an audience that included players, parents and coaches from the league, as well as players from the Somerset Berkley Regional High School soccer team, some of whom played in the league under Booth. Booth was asked to do the ceremonial first kick to start the soccer season and booted the ball into the net.
During the time that Booth has volunteered in the SSYSL, the league has purchased land in Swansea, which he said is not far away from being used for soccer games, has started an indoor soccer facility, created a website and started a snack truck for families to enjoy refreshments during games. Booth said one of the first jobs he did as president of the league was to document all rules of play and bylaws of the league. He said the president of the league oversees its business, sets direction and leadership and makes sure coaches, players and directors are following rules that are set. He said people have come to him with questions about league matters he has had to resolve. Financially, he said the president has to help the league to break even.
Booth is now a licensed referee, a level one and two goalkeeping coach and has a U.S. National Soccer Federation D level coaching license. Over the years, he said he has attended hundreds of coaching clinics and classes.
"I've learned a lot," Booth said. "A lot of the coaches that I've worked with over the years taught me tons of stuff, including college coaches I've worked with."
During his time in the league, Booth also served on the board of directors and managed the snack truck.
Booth said that after he signed his 7-year-old son up to play in the SSYSL, he came to his first practice and saw a lot of children with one coach. He said he told the coach that he would help out if he would teach him about soccer because he did not know anything about the sport.
When Booth's daughter signed up for the league, he served as the U5 director. After three years of volunteering in the league, Booth was made the president. Booth's children have not played in the league for eight years, but he continues to volunteer to help the SSYSL.
Booth's children include Shawn, 28, Michael 22, and Stephanie, 19. Booth said some of the benefits that soccer provide to children include exercise, learning about team values and becoming leaders. For the younger soccer players, he said the sport helps with their coordination and shows them how to use their feet, whereas most other sports involve more use of the hands.
"It's very active and the kids never get bored because they are always moving," Booth said.
Booth said the players in the league develop great relationships with a large group of children and families. This year, there are about 1,000 youths in the SSYSL. Booth said there has been an increase in the number of children playing indoor recreational soccer and on spring travel teams. The players and families are really committed to the sport.
"What's special about soccer is it's 365 days a year," Booth said. "It's all year. It never stops."
Booth and his wife Karen are Somerset residents who have lived in the town for 25 years. Booth said they did not have organized soccer in Assonet where he grew up.
Booth is a senior director of engineering and project management at the Hasbro toys company. He is looking forward to having a little more free time, since he will not be president of the league, but said he will continue to do what he enjoys which is coaching and mentoring children and helping the community by volunteering.
"I'm not walking away," Booth said. "I'm going to continue to manage the snack truck and coach the girls' travel team and help out when they need me."