MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Youth Soccer:
Close to 100 teams participated in the two day tournament, making youth soccer the largest event of the State Games of Mississippi. Teams traveled from across the state as well as from neighboring states, such as Alabama. MCC girls’ soccer coach and Alliance Football Club Director of Coaching, Mike Smith, played in the State Games as a child and has since returned to coach.
“It’s just a huge tradition,” Smith said. “I mean it’s been going on ever since I was eight or nine years old so I played in it and now I get to coach in it. And, you know, it’s just always been a fun and special tournament.”
Grade 8 soccer referee, Daniel Porter, is officiating in his fourth State Games. He makes the drive from the coast and understands why the event has become so popular.
“It’s the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s the amount of organization that the state games of Mississippi has that brings teams back year after year from all over the state.”
Youth soccer concludes Sunday
With just north of 100 participants, martial arts is one of the most popular events in the State Games. Athletes are separated by age, ability and form. Mike Ivey has served as the event’s commissioner for the past seven years and thinks the sport is a unique addition to the slate of activities throughout the month.
“I think it brings, you know, a lot of different people,” Ivey said. “And Martial arts is a different sport. It’s not like a school sport like baseball or basketball so something, you know, a little different maybe the area is not necessarily used to.”
Ivey’s son Braden is in his fourth year of competition and he has seen the event change in his time competing.
“My first state games I was probably about 13 years old and ever since then I’ve competed every year,” he said. “It’s definitely grown since I first started coming here, it’s definitely grown and competition is getting a lot better.”
Ivey is a member of the junior national team.
Volleyball is one of the oldest events in the State Games having first been played in the Games’ second year. This year, sixteen teams participated in the 2-person version and were divided by ability. Scott Gray has been the commissioner each year of the event and says the event has changed not only with increased participation, but with different venues and the introduction of 4-person volleyball. Gray talks about the comradery the sports allows for its participants.
“The Meridian area – the volleyball itself has its own community and so the Jackson people get together three, four, five, six times a week and they play and the Meridian people do…We’ve got like six pockets of volleyball players. So the State Games gives each of those groups an opportunity to come together.”
Brandon’s Tan Truong and Billy King have been playing in the State Games for 20 years and can speak to the community of volleyball Gray mentions.
“I just enjoy coming and seeing people that we don’t get to see.” King said. “I mean I know a lot of these people from years and sometimes I only see them at the State Games. So I enjoy coming.”
Four-person volleyball will be June 22nd.