Three Utahns have been honored as regional award-winners by U.S. Youth Soccer for last year, and all of them will be up for national honors next month.
Sparta Soccer Club coach Andrew Cuppett is the Region IV competitive girls coach of the year, West Valley City Soccer Club coach Jenifer Wood is the Region IV recreational coach of the year, and Heather Millburn was recognized as the Region IV administrator of the year for her work with District 7 Soccer in Box Elder County.
"It's huge for soccer in Utah," said Drew Hiatt, executive director of Utah Youth Soccer. "We're a growing organization, we're trying to make it possible to give our athletes the best opportunities, and we take this seriously. These awards, I think, show that the region sees what we're doing."
Cuppett coaches one of the state's more prestigious clubs Sparta Soccer Club based in Sandy and also coaches with Utah's Olympic Development Program. He tends to work with girls between ages 9 to 11, Hiatt said.
"He loves the game of soccer," Hiatt added. "It's his passion and his life. He works very well with you people, and he's becoming a great role model in our program."
Millburn works as a county registrar in Box Elder full-time, but her part-time passion is helping register players and organize teams for District 7 Soccer. Now in her fifth year as an administrator, Millburn said she was "estatic" to receive the regional award.
"I think it's great that [US Youth Soccer] cares about even the small scale," said Millburn, who helped grow District 7 to 25 competitive teams. "A lot of people do this as a full-time job for really big organizations. But it's great that they're recognizing people at this level."
Wood has coached the West Valley Soccer Club for the last three years, and each year she has added a new team. The recreation club is based in West Valley City.
Hiatt said the nominations are partly indicative of the growing soccer scene in Utah. Utah Youth Soccer membership players, coaches and volunteers grew 6 percent last year, part of which he credits to the success of Real Salt Lake sparking renewed interest in the sport.
Hiatt estimates Utah Youth Soccer will have 40,000 members by the end of the year.
"More people are definitely seeing Utah as a soccer hotspot," he said. "The girls have been quietly good for awhile, and the boys are getting better. We're allowing ourselves to grow, and this could be a sign that people are taking Utah soccer seriously."