These weren't idle words for Phil Lombardi, physical director at the local branch of the Phoenixville Area YMCA. He has backed them up with action and there are hundreds of boys and girls who are witnesses to the fact. Last Saturday and Sunday, the soccer and lacrosse fields were alive with the sounds of children having fun. True, they were learning the fundamentals of each sport in team situations. However, the emphasis was on instruction and participation rather than competition.

A rugged former Marine with six years active duty, Lombardi recalled his own years of competitive athletics. Modestly, he admits that he was good enough to play regularly but he was always aware of the other kids who spent much of their time on the pine. "I was determined when I first took this position as a part-time director six years ago, I would allow every child the same opportunity to compete," Lombardi stated.

When Dan Babiak left as senior physical director, Phil was elevated to full-time status.

"I love these kids and was happy to get the opportunity to direct the youth sports program," he added.

The success of the coed soccer program can be illustrated by the numbers enrolled.

When league play begun last weekend, there were 14 teams in the under six category (four- and five-year-olds). There were six teams in the Under 8s and Under 10s respectively with each carrying a roster of 12 players.

Finally the YMCA supports an Under12 and Under 14 traveling team. These squads face outside clubs and are more competitive but still with the proviso that everyone plays.

For those who may believe that starting soccer so young might be considered a waste of time, statistics have proven otherwise. Some of the boys and girls who first took part in beginning soccer programs stayed with the sport. However, even more have used soccer as a training ground to become better coordination, stronger and have greater endurance even though they switched to a different sport later in their school athletics programs.

The NCAA noted that women's collegiate soccer is the fastest growing sport in America. For the young ladies just starting to play at the YMCA, the result might be a large scholarship sometime in their future. Listen to those parents cheer!

Fall is usually a perfect time to have children play outdoors. Boys lacrosse is the second sport that takes advantage of the beautiful autumn background at the local YMCA.

The girls have been playing lacrosse at the Phoenixville Middle and High School for years but now the boys are taking more interest in the sport. The YMCA has a fall program to teach the fundamentals of the game. Currently there are four local teams divided according to age. The Under 9s are basically an instructional squad. However, the Under 11s and 13s take the game to the next level.

For example, the Under 13s host squads from Collegeville, Conestoga and Great Valley on successive Saturdays. The outside competition prepares them for future action on higher levels. Men's lacrosse has been a very popular collegiate sport for decades.

There is still room to sign up for these or any other YMCA program. Now that the Spring Valley branch of the Phoenixville Area YMCA has opened, there is plenty of room for everyone. The early fall sessions at all three branches began on Monday and run until October 30.

The 32-page catalog is available at the customer service desk of the family center. If you have never had the opportunity to enjoy our Y, now is the time. There is something for everyone. Plus no one is turned away for financial reasons. Last year the Y Partners Campaign raised $647, 000 to help more than 5700 individuals experience the positive effects of programs such as those noted above.

It is impossible in a single column to cover the many blessings available for young and old alike at your YMCA. The outstanding aquatics program, the Fitness centers in each branch, plus adult and senior programs are all separate stories that fit the needs of every family.

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