By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on May 23, 2022
For local moms Diane Wehner and Maggie Dawson, organizing a spring soccer league for nearly 400 Dare County children each year has become something of a calling.
Both of them grew up playing soccer and have a love for the game. But it’s not just the sport itself that motivates Wehner and Dawson to keep the Outer Banks Youth Soccer Association (OBYSA) league kicking after more than two decades.
OBYSA began in 2001 as a way to complement the Dare County Parks and Recreation fall program and give budding soccer players an opportunity to play year-round. Wehner, who has been coaching in the league since its inception, took over the reins of the program in 2008 and has been heading it up ever since.
Now, as OBYSA wraps up its 2022 season, Wehner and Dawson took a few moments out on the field during a recent game day to talk to the Voice about what makes them come back every season, even when – at least in Wehner’s case – their own children have aged out of the league, which serves children pre-k through eighth grade.
The league includes boys and girls, who play together on teams when younger and can play together in middle school if there aren’t enough kids of one gender to make a full team. The OBYSA season runs from March to May and usually includes teams playing about eight or nine games per season. This season has been challenging, Wehner said, since the Nags Head soccer fields are closed for repair, requiring that all games be played at the First Flight Middle School fields.
After coaching for several years, Dawson, who is OBYSA president and still has one child in OBYSA, stepped up six years ago to help Wehner, now the treasurer. Between the two of them, they do everything from registration and organizing the teams, coaches, referees and volunteers to scheduling the practices and games and being on hand on game day to keep things running smoothly.
In Wehner’s case, she says all the hours put into the program are worth it when she sees the enthusiasm and excitement among the athletes.
“When you come out here on opening day and see all those smiling faces, it’s just brilliant, “said Wehner, whose oldest daughter now coaches and referees for OBYSA. “It’s so fun to watch the kids play…I love seeing them when they make a goal or have a good save and the coaches get excited. It’s just so cool.”
Dawson, who also grew up playing soccer and whose daughter will be in ninth grade next year and too old for the league, said she’ll likely continue helping, even without a child in the program
“I can’t imagine not doing it,” she said. “If we didn’t do it, and someone said it was just not going to [continue], I would be so sad about that because these are kids that not only wouldn’t be playing soccer, but probably wouldn’t be playing any other sport right now. It gets them outside and gets them active.”
Wehner said that OBYSA couldn’t happen each year without the many sponsors, volunteers and Dare County Parks and Recreation, which helps the association with the fields and provides the goals. Unlike the more competitive OBX Storm Soccer Club, OBYSA is strictly a recreation-geared activity, Wehner pointed out.
“We mandate that everybody plays half the game,” she said. And the benefits of participating in the league are many, she adds. “There are so many great things about team sports. Working together as a team, exercising and having fun…I think it teaches them discipline, responsibility.”
Dawson echoed those observations, adding, “The kids have a great time, we’re laid back and there’s no stress. We’re not doing the ‘Win, Win, Win’ trophy situation.”
Wehner said that it has been particularly rewarding is to see people that she coached now with children of their own and doing the coaching. Like her daughter, children and young adults who have been through the program are also coaching and refereeing.
Although both women are humble about the impact they’ve had on the program, Wehner admits that it makes a big difference in the life of kids and their families.
“I am really proud of it,” Wehner said. “It’s been a long time and I’m proud of how it’s grown. I’m proud of all the different people who are involved in the program…and it’s just cool to see the kids.”