Gillwald: No average soccer mom
With countless hours devoted to her job working with youth winter sports programs and even more of her spare time spent with the Park City Extreme Soccer Club, Shelley Gillwald has likely had moments when she wished for some type of recognition, but never really put any more thought into it.
So, when she beat out Surburdan-driving soccer moms from all over the Wasatch Front to win the Utah Youth Soccer Association (UYSA) Volunteer of the Year, she was definitely a little shocked.
The UYSA includes nearly 500 teams from all over Utah and sponsors programs for the U-9 (nine-and-under) age level all the way up to U-17 teams.
Gillwald suspects that the honor came from her multiple duties within the Extreme Club. Besides being the devoted mother of 14-and-under player Karsten, in the past two years, Gillwald has served in the capacities of registrar and manager for the Extreme.
In those roles, Gillwald has acted as a liaison that understands the concerns of both parents and the administration.
"That puts me as the frontline person, so anytime somebody is directing an inquiry, I’m one of the first people they talk to," Gillwald said.
She cites the cost of playing club soccer as a key issue. With the club’s $600 price tag soaring above that of $60 recreational soccer, Gillwald know the constraints that can put on a family. She has helped to figure out payment plans and other options, so club soccer is affordable for everyone.
"I look at ‘What are the issues that families face?’" Gillwald said.
She takes those concerns back to the club’s board of directors to keep the lines of communication open.
Gillwald also works closely with team managers, coaches and coaching directors. She feels that her unique networking position allows the Extreme Club to be a strong presence in Park City as well in the UYSA.
She is a dedicated proponent of the B-level teams in the club organization and works diligently to sustain them. It is her belief that as many youth as possible should have the opportunity to play club soccer, even if their skills need a little honing.
"As age populations balloon, it’s really important to me to create B-teams so we are not limiting it to 18 kids," Gillwald said. "We created the second team to key in on the developmental process."
She hopes that the addition of another team will allow kids to continue to improve as they grow, so that one day they may have a chance of making their high school team.
"It’s pretty hard it’s not impossible, but it’s hard for a kid to show up and try out for high school soccer without playing club soccer," Gillwald said.
The award was given to Gillwald in a ceremony in February, where she was presented with a trophy, messenger bag and a blanket. She was nominated by two Park City residents. But despite the honor of the award, Gillwald almost missed out on the ceremonial part. When Gillwald was nominated, the UYSA contacted her and invited her to the annual banquet, which she quickly declined. After further consideration, she realized it was a good opportunity to represent the club. So, she made her way down to the valley and soon found her arms full of accolades.
For Gillwald, though, it isn’t about a commemorative blanket, it’s about her ability to network in the community with sports programs, families and kids.
"I have a lot of insight," Gillwald said.
Another important endeavor for Gillwald is keeping club soccer available to the Latino community. Since taking over her positions, she has translated all club materials into Spanish and actively recruits Latino youth to participate. In order to make the programs affordable to everyone, she has also worked to bolster the club’s scholarship programs.
"It’s a wonderful opportunity to further interest in the community," Gillwald said. "I think about how youth sports can include all populations in the community."
She is also committed to working in conjunction with Black Diamond, the other soccer club in the community.
"I work hard with Will Cummins and Bonnie Palmacci to share information on programs and build the broader soccer community," Gillwald said.
A similar effort also goes toward working with the organizers of recreational soccer.
"That’s always on my radar screen," Gillwald said.
In her position as director of the Youth WinterSports Alliance, a non-profit organization that benefits youth winter sports programs in the area, Gillwald says that she enjoys the opportunity to understand all facets of youth sports programming and the community. She often finds her expertise there blends with the demands of her volunteer work with Extreme.
"It really all does blend to me with the community and relationships with families and bringing sports to kids in the community," Gillwald said. "It broadens the network."
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