The Appalachian Mountain Brewery Premier League, Boone’s outdoor adult soccer league put on by High Country Soccer Association, is a major player in local youth being able to participate in more soccer programs with HCSA and brings the soccer community together at local restaurants.
“Our adult leagues helps grow our soccer community and gives us funding for our youth programs which really helps grow the club as a whole,” Director of Coaching Kiki Wallace said. “The growth of our youth programs in the last few years was largely funded by the adult league which costs us almost nothing to run.”
The league is split into three divisions: Los Arcoiris Gold Division, which is more competitive; TApp Room Silver Division, which is less competitive; and Wild Craft Bronze Division, which is more recreational. Division champions receive a gift card to their division’s sponsor as well as AMB.
Mike Raymond goes up for a ball with goalkeeper and defender.
Each season begins with a preseason social at AMB for teams to come celebrate the start of the season and enjoy AMB’s craft brews. There is also a corn-hole tournament in which the winners win a pitcher of their choice.
“The preseason social is a newer addition to the league that we added because people asked for more social gatherings outside of game nights,” Technical Director of Coaching and Sponsorships Jody Young said. Young also runs the AMB Premier and Futsal leagues.
AMB also sponsors the adult futsal league that takes place in the winter. It is only split into the Los Arcoiris Gold Division and the TApp Room Silver Division but teams are still playing for gift cards to the division’s sponsor and AMB.
According to Wallace, there were over 500 adult soccer registrations in the 2015-2016 period, which composed 30 percent of all registrations in that time. The adult league as a whole brings in 7 percent of HCSA’s $500,000 annual revenues.
Wallace remembered days when each season they had to wait for registration to end to make sure there would be enough teams for just one division. Now they consistently have three divisions for outdoor and two for indoor with teams coming back year in and year out.
“We wanted to focus on getting people to play every season,” Wallace said. “We would have six teams in the fall and two or three in the spring early on. We wanted to get these teams to come back and always play.”
That is when Wallace and Young thought of sponsoring the league and offering prizes to the winners.
“Our original sponsorship was with Boone Saloon sponsoring the whole league with no division sponsors,” Young said. “Each player on the winning team would receive a mug and the team would get a gift card to Boone Saloon.”
When that sponsorship ended, Young wanted to try to get the league sponsored and named along with getting the divisions individually sponsored.
“A couple were easy because I had thrown the idea out to the manager’s before and they were interested in looking more into it,” Young said. “When we tell them how we plan to bring the league to them and advertise them to clubs that visit us for youth games, they usually jump right on board.
HCSA does their part in the sponsorship with the preseason social and supplying gift cards to division champions getting the teams to go to the restaurants. They also advertise the businesses to the many families that travel to Boone for league games during the youth seasons.
They also try to highlight their two tournament weekends to sponsors. Each tournament brings over 60 teams from nearby states to Boone for the weekend. HCSA offers goody bags to each tournament team including coupons provided by sponsors. They push teams to those locations for food and team dinner parties.
The AMB Futsal League is playing their championship games tonight where the Gold and Silver division champions will be crowned.
“I won the outdoor championship in the fall so I’d love to take home the futsal championship and start the spring with back-to-back gold championships,” Tyler Freeman said. “It’s a fun way to get exercise and meet people who enjoy soccer here because it’s a hard sport to find people really interested in.”
Freeman and his team, Aguilas. Fall 2016 AMB Premier League: Los Arcoiris Gold Division Champions
As for continued growth, Wallace says he thinks they have reached their max because of field space and working around their youth programs but he says the second they can they want to take the next step in making the adult league even better.
Since sophomore guard Ronshad Shabazz joined the Appalachian State men’s basketball team two years ago, the Mountaineers have amassed an overall record of 17-36, going 10-23 in the Sun Belt conference.
While the number in the win column is much lower than any of the team hoped at the beginning of the season, Shabazz has been a bright spot. Statistically, he leads the team in minutes, field goals made, field goals attempted, points per game and more.
However, Shabazz has made a difference off of the court as well.
“He’s a great glue for the guys,” junior forward Griffin Kinney said. “He’s friends with everybody on the team. He’s somebody I can spend all day with, have class with, come to practice with and then hang out at my place. I’m with him all the time. He’s a great guy on and off the court and he’s a vital component to this team.”
Shabazz has been a consistent part of the Mountaineers’ starting lineup, starting all but one game over the past two seasons. With a multi-faceted game that includes the ability to shoot and drive to the basket, Kinney said that Shabazz is beneficial to the other Appalachian State players on the court.
“Every time we play, the other team knows where he is at,” Kinney said. “That opens up a lot of things for other guys. Just his presence.”
While he has grown and matured over his tenure at Appalachian State, Shabazz has had to learn on the fly. He said he tries to take advantage of the early experience and learn as quickly as possible. During his first two seasons, he has made many mistakes. However, he said that head coach Jim Fox and his teammates have helped him learn and move on from the small errors.
“I’ve learned it's a long season,” Shabazz said. “You have to take care of your body, and you can’t hold your head down. You might have a bad game, but you have to get back at it. You have to have this fight mentality.”
What Shabazz lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in energy and excitement.
“I bring energy and leadership,” Shabazz said. “I can help guide my team in the game. I can help defensively. I bring a lot to the table. I bring this fight mentality to the game, and I feel like my team feeds off me.”
Kinney said that Shabazz’s energy is non-stop. Whether it be in practice, during a walkthrough or in a game, he said that Shabazz is always ready to go. Kinney also said that it is a likeable energy that makes players enjoy being on the court with Shabazz.
“When you’re playing with guys you like, it makes you play that much harder and put that much more effort in for your teammates and your brothers,” Kinney said.
Shabazz admitted that the individual achievements and statistics feel good, but the success of the team is where his heart is.
“I’d rather win a lot of games than have 30 points and lose a game,” Shabazz said. “Winning means way more to me than anything.”
Off the court, those around Shabazz have also noticed a change. Holly Moore, a junior at Appalachian State and co-captain of the dance team, has been close with him for the last two years and is currently dating Shabazz.
Moore said that he is respected by his teammates because it is so evident that he cares about the team and the game.
“He has blossomed into a more team-oriented player, giving others opportunities to get the points,” Moore said. “At the same time his points-per-game has increased, which has to do with him being a bolder player. He keeps the team focused and has great leadership qualities.”
Although he feels he’s played well in his first two seasons, Shabazz said that everyone can always get better. He says he values practice more each and every day, and, no matter if they win or lose, he and his teammates come to practice ready to fight.
His work ethic has not gone unnoticed by teammates. And he is a positive encouragement to other players to improve their drive as well.
“He’s over here getting shots up after practice,” Kinney said. “He’s not afraid to put in the work and to take other guys with him. He’s not the type of guy to go shoot by himself. He’s going to grab somebody with him and take him to the gym as well.”
With that drive on and off the court, Shabazz said that the ceiling is high for the Mountaineers, and he is eyeing the possibility of a Sun Belt Championship and an NCAA Tournament bid before he’s finished at Appalachian State.
“I know I work hard, and I know my teammates work hard,” Shabazz said. “Even though in the win column it hasn't shown, we’re always going to put in the work, and I know it’s going to pay off.”