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Growing, learning: NIFC program expands in 2nd year

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(Rob Winner – rwinner@daily-chronicle.com)
Drew Moulton, 12, of Sycamore, and her teammates sprint during a recent practice for the Northern Illinois Football Club.

DeKALB – Chris Brown has some lofty goals for the Northern Illinois Football Club. Given the jump in popularity in the club’s second year, it’s hard to believe he won’t reach those goals.

What used to be a three-team contingent of traveling soccer clubs in the DeKalb County area was merged to one last year in the NIFC. Brown, the NIFC director of coaching, said the club had 250 kids, ranging from 8 to 18, participate in the first season.

That number has grown to about 315 in Year 2.

“We had a big jump,” Brown said. “We didn’t get as many teams as I would have liked but we have one at almost every age group. I think it’s great for us and great for the community.”

Brown attributed the boost in popularity to the stability of having one local program that places a heavy emphasis on training and development with highly touted trainers.

“We hold a little bit different of a standard,” Brown said. “There’s licensing. My goal by the end of next summer is to have everyone at a national D license. E is the first one, D is the next. Most of our trainers are at an A or B license.”

So what’s the next step?

Brown said that the program is at 15 teams right now. He believes the NIFC has the capacity for 20-24 teams.

“My next goal is to get some of the younger generation, the 6, 7, 8-year-olds in and get those numbers popping,” Brown said.

It’s a goal the president of the NIFC, Dave Wallin also believes is possible.

“Soccer is so popular throughout the country,” Wallin said. “We’re putting a quality product on the field with quality training.”

Brown said the first year had a good amount of success on the field, with a handful of teams moving up a division and a majority of the teams competing well in tournaments.

And with an apparent successful start to a second year in terms of enrollment, those goals don’t seem so far away this summer.

“It was somewhat easy but really making people understand and buy into it, as with any program, it takes a little while,” Brown said. “So I think we’re ahead of the curve but we’re not there yet.”

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