The Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) is very pleased to announce that Ripton Cooke and Cheryl Lewis are being honored as our Personalities of the Month for April.
The married couple are natives of Jamaica who came to soccer in different ways. Ripton played soccer recreationally growing up on the Caribbean island, then played on his high school team at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx during his senior year. He also played on a military base in England while he was enlisted in the US Air Force.
Cheryl explained, “I never played the sport because girls were not encouraged to participate when I was growing up in Jamaica. We became involved with soccer as parents 14 years ago when our son Nathan was five years old and playing AYSO.“
Ripton became an emergency coach for Nathan’s team when he was eight years old and the coach quit in the middle of the season.
“It took quite a bit of convincing on my part to get him to do it but once he became involved, it quickly developed into a passion,” said Cheryl.
Ripton, along with Donovan Evans, Steve Lawrence and Curtis Walker, co-founded the Spirit of Mount Vernon Soccer Club ten years ago in 2007 as a non-profit organization when they put together a summer clinic for the City of Mount Vernon, then ran an indoor soccer program at the Sports Underdome that winter.
“We were formed as Mount Vernon FC was folding. They catered to only the top players in the city,” Ripton said. “We instead wanted to serve all the players in Mount Vernon.”
The Spirit of Mount Vernon joined the East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL) with one team in 2009 and four teams––Boys-Under-12 Tsunami, Boys-Under-14 Lightning, Boys-Under-17 Hurricane and Boys-Under-19 Thunder––now wear the club’s red, white and blue uniforms in the EHYSL. A total of seven girls compete on those four boys teams. Other kids in the city are registered with neighboring clubs who also play in the EHYSL while other children and teens there play pick-up soccer only and are not on any formal teams. Since Mount Vernon has a population of 67,292 (according to the 2010 census) coming from 98 nations, the club has room for growth.
“With the right funding, we could work wonders because the kids in Mount Vernon have tremendous raw skill,” Ripton explained.
It is very appropriate that its teams are named after storms as the Spirit of Mount Vernon has faced many challenges during the past decade, with finding a field to play on being a huge one despite a new turf field seemingly debuting every month in Westchester County.
Through Ripton’s role as assistant coach of the boys varsity team at Mount Vernon High School, the soccer club was able to secure the use of their grass field a couple of years ago. He was promoted to head coach last fall. But the club, and not the city or school district, maintains it by cutting the grass and lining the field. Ripton volunteers his time as club President and head coach and Cheryl serves as club manager despite having moved seven years ago to Wappingers Falls, a whopping 60 miles from Mount Vernon.
Ripton coaches practice six days per week and Mount Vernon plays games on Sundays while Cheryl travels to Mount Vernon four days weekly to manage the club.
“Both Ripton and Cheryl are great representatives of their club within our league,” stated EHYSL President Jim Purdy. “The greatest contribution they make is giving the youth of Mount Vernon the opportunity to play our great game. It is clear to me the reason those children and young adults have the opportunity to play soccer is due to the unwavering dedication of both Ripton and Cheryl. This recognition from Eastern New York is very well-deserved.”
And all this volunteering is in addition to being parents to six: Jeremiah (25 years old), Nathan (19), Naomi (17), Nazari (just turned 15 in April), Neriah (just turned 14 in April) and Neah (11). Jeremiah played youth soccer plus Nathan, Neriah and Neah are currently playing soccer.
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Special Children. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.
(Photos attached courtesy of Ripton Cooke and Cheryl Lewis. The first photo is of the couple. The second photo is of the Mount Vernon Thunder receiving awards with Ripton on the far right.)