Children get a ‘kick’ out of soccer clinic

About 70 enthusiastic youngsters attended the Sept. 12 inaugural Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Soccer Clinic held at Yosemite High School.

The free five hour clinic was held for boys and girls between five and 16-years, and made possible by Bryant Family True Value Home Centers, Inc., Oakhurst Sierra Rotary Club, and Sierra Tel.

Those attending the clinic learned the importance of warming-up and stretching before a soccer game, and many offense and defense soccer skills including dribbling, passing, striking the ball, and how to play as a team.

Clinic coaches included Yosemite High School boys and girls varsity coaches Rick Lemberg, and Vanessa Jasper, Minarets girls coach Mary Pearson, and long-time youth coach Joel Gist. Members of the Badger’s girls and boys teams assisted.

Lemberg has been coaching soccer for more than 25 years, the past five at YHS.

Jasper played four years of soccer for Yosemite High, and Pearson, who plays in the Amodei Adult Soccer League, is entering her fourth season coaching at Minarets.

Theresa Bryant said the entire Bryant family was excited to be involved as a corporate sponsor for the soccer clinic.

“There was a great turnout and the kids really had fun,” Bryant said. “The children did not want to leave and said they couldn’t wait till next year. All the coaches were awesome with the children and really made it a fun learning opportunity.”

The Bryant family provided a barbecue hamburger lunch for all the children, their parents, and coaching staff at the clinic.

Big Brothers Big Sister Event Coordinator Ren Hallett said he was pleased with the turn-out for the first year event.

“It was the solid support from the Oakhurst business community that helped make the event happen, purchasing nearly 40 ads in the clinic’s program,” Hallett said.

Bryant family continues sponsorship

The Bryant family, owners of True Value Home Centers in Oakhurst, Coarsegold, and Mariposa, and H&L Lumber in Oakhurst, has again donated $20,000 to make the Big Brothers Big Sisters program at Oakhurst Elementary School possible a second year.

“We are so proud to sponsor the High School Bigs Program again this year,” Bryant said. “It was so rewarding to see the success of the program last year, we just knew we had to do it again. One of the ‘littles’ from the program was at the soccer clinic today and asked ... Who can I thank for giving me my big? That really made our day, and reminded us why this program is so important to the kids of this community.”

The OES program, which started this week, has 20 ‘bigs’ from Yosemite High serving as academic mentors, and role models to 20 ‘littles’ at OES for 90 minutes one day a week. YHS Guidance Counselor Stephanie Samuels is serving as adviser for the YHS students.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has existed in the Central Valley since 1969, increasing education levels, strengthening families, and increasing positive youth development through one-to-one caring relationships. Over the past 45 years, the agency has successfully served more than over 10,000 children in the Central Valley.

The BBBS program holds itself accountable for each child in the program to improve educational success by gaining higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships while avoiding risky behavior.

Alex Huerta, BBBS director of operations said Central Valley statistics show that of the children matched with a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters, 95% improve in academic performance, 91% are more prepared for school, and 100% experience a boost in self-confidence.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Diane Phakonekham said the Oakhurst program is blessed for all the support the program is receiving from the community and the Bryant family.

“We are happy to be providing our services for the second year at Oakhurst Elementary School,” Phakonekham said. “The ‘bigs’ from Yosemite High are doing a great job.”

Details: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California, (559) 673-4863,