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Soccer players get their kicks in

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It’s a different game.

Yes, they’re still using a soccer ball, the game is played on grass, and the objective remains the same, to put the ball into the back of the net.

There is, however, no question the three-on-three game is drastically different than the traditional 11-on-11 version of soccer.

That’s what a handful of local players are finding out this summer as they play three-on-three soccer as part of the Sea Turtles organization.

The Sea Turtles came to life last summer, and the organization was created by Shane Pulliam, the boys’ head soccer coach at LaGrange High.

There are boys’ and girls’ teams in a handful of age groups, and they compete in tournaments throughout the summer.

It’s a fast-paced game where goals are plentiful, and there’s nowhere to hide since there are only three players on a side.

“The decisions are quicker because the field is smaller,” Pulliam said. “So, you have to think quicker, you have to talk quicker.”

Pulliam’s message to the new players is to not get discouraged if things don’t go well the first time out.

Pulliam’s said players enjoy it “as long as they do it more

than once, because the first time’s not going to go good. And you just have to know that, and become invested that you’re going to continue to do it, and you’ll see improvement.”

One of the newcomers is Maddie McPeters, who was a soccer standout for the region-champion LaGrange Lady Grangers this spring.

“It’s a lot faster than regular soccer,” McPeters said after she and two of her teammates finished scrimmaging during a recent practice. “The rules and concepts are a little different. It’s faster than a regular game. This is really going to help me (in regular soccer).”

One of the Sea Turtles’ veterans is Jack DeVane, a member of LaGrange High’s successful boys’ soccer program.

DeVane, like most of his teammates, began competing in three-on-three soccer last summer, and he believes it’s been beneficial.

“I do think it improves you,” DeVane said. “I feel like your individual technical skill improves a lot.”

Two of the Sea Turtles’ teams are composed of LaGrange High players.

Earlier this summer in a tournament, the two LaGrange teams ended up facing each other in the championship game, and DeVane said that’s always the goal.

“That’s our plan,” DeVane said “We’re taking two teams, and our plan is to meet each other in the championship.”

The Sea Turtles’ organization isn’t just about developing high-school players, though.

There are teams for all ages through high school, and boys and girls are welcome.

Pulliam’s belief is that the three-on-three game will help players of all skill levels.

“It forces them to get better and read the game quicker,” Pulliam said. “It helps them all.”