On Saturday, 12 teams took to Good Harbor Beach to participate in the New England Beach Soccer Cup, that was being held for the first time since 2010. Despite the uncooperative weather to start the day, about 100 people still showed up to either play or watch the event, including a few curious bystanders who were already on the beach. Music was blaring, people were dancing and not even the weather could deter the overall interest or enjoyment in the event. This modified beach soccer version has some interesting modifications that appeal to both fans and players alike.
Unlike traditional soccer that features 10 players and a goalie, beach soccer is a much smaller squad with 4 players and a goalie. The surface area is naturally much smaller, as the dimensions are about a tenth of the size of a regular soccer field. Another twist is the ability to make substitutions on the fly, which draws comparisons to hockey. The softer and smaller surface, as well as the decreased number of players, makes beach soccer a faster and more exciting game.
While the tournament had a lot of local flavor, it drew a lot of players from outside of the area. Teams trekked from East Boston, Peabody, Beverly and Connecticut to complete the field of 12. In the end, a Gloucester run team ruled supreme, as the Penmen took home the championship with a 3-0 victory in Saturday's finals over Kraken FC out of Beverly. Both teams had a hard time scoring until the final five minutes when Daniel Hernandez, a former Southern New Hampshire University soccer player, netted three straight goals en route to the title.
The unique part of beach soccer is that you don't have to be a soccer player to enjoy it. The Penmen were comprised of former Gloucester High School athletes Kyle Grimaldi and Alex Tomaino. Grimaldi, a 2006 graduate, played four years of soccer at Gloucester and went on to play college soccer at the Rochester Institute of Technology. On the contrary, Tomaino, a 2007 Gloucester graduate, played football at Gloucester and Bentley College, but has never played soccer before.
With an excellent 2012 showing, co-founder Joe La Rocca attributes the success to the hard work and marketing efforts that went into the project.
"When we did the trial run in 2010, we didn't spend any marketing dollars," La Rocca said. "I literally grabbed four teams from Gloucester that I knew and we played. This year we put a lot money into the project, investing in backstop nets, field boards, etc. We started in February planning for this event and the New England Revolution helped us out by promoting the event at their stadium."
La Rocca also credits their interactive web site and social media efforts for promoting the event.
"We probably got four or five teams just through digital marketing alone," he said. "We constantly updated our web site and facebook page to try and circulate interest. We also tried to be interactive by creating YouTube videos that showed the tournament draws and rules."
La Rocca is already very excited for the prospects of next year's tournament. Jalapenos restaurant sponsored the event this year, but La Rocca is already in talks with the New England Revolution about sponsoring the event for next year. Eventually, the NE Beach Soccer Tournament wants to expand into multiple divisions, including youth and female divisions. With its 2012 success, La Rocca is hoping the tournament becomes in staple in Gloucester's tradition for years to come.
For more information about the tournament, visit. www.nebeachsoccer.com.