Amanda Blackburn got involved with the Paul Klover Soccer Association to maintain connections with her sons. She ended up helping connect hundreds of area youth to the game she has grown to love.
Blackburn, president of PKSA, got her start with the group 13 years ago in the same way that so many people before and after her did: She was a parent with children in the program and was asked to volunteer. Then-President Jody Chmelir asked Blackburn to coach her son Trenton’s U-6 team. She didn’t know much about the sport at that time, but as the daughter of the late Mayor Bob Wasson and Elle Wasson Dugan, service is in her blood. So is family.
“One of the driving factors behind (volunteering for PKSA) is being involved with something where you can be with your children, not something that takes you away from your children,” Blackburn said.
Soon after, Chmelir asked her to attend a board meeting, which she said was rather disorganized. The group lacked a secretary so she seized the opportunity to provide some structure. Two years later, Chmelir asked her to take over as president.
“I saw it as an opportunity to give back to my community,” she said. “It was giving back while being involved with something I loved, being with my children. It very quickly became a way of life for us.”
Today she puts in between 20 and 25 hours per week on PKSA-related matters, including “back-end” business such as ensuring all coaches have completed background checks and concussion awareness testing to securing coaches and ordering T-shirts. Then there are her “front-end” duties, including overseeing committee leaders, completing schedules and ensuring the fields are ready for play. Some of those hours also are spent being present for practices and matches.
“Every day at some point in time we are out at the fields,” she said.
While watching her sons Trenton and Tyler grow up in the game through Paul Klover, Blackburn also has enjoyed seeing other players come through and go on to play at the college level, including Alex Esquivel, Tanner McFatrich and Colby Edgar.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” she said. “I feel like I grew up with them in some aspects, in that I got to see them play with Trenton in U-6 soccer. … It is so wild that they now are in college. It has been rewarding watching them grow not only as athletes but as people.”
Blackburn said those players, along with Ian Wallen, McKenna Perusich and others, have continued to come back and support PKSA to ensure a positive soccer experience for younger players. Some of them also helped launch PKSA’s TOPSoccer program for children with special needs. Blackburn is grateful she has been able to mentor those young adults in ways to give back to their communities.
In her time as president, one of Blackburn’s most rewarding experiences was working with Esquivel, now in his sophomore year at Drury University in Springfield, to help establish a TOPSoccer program in that area.
“The Lake County Soccer Club down in Springfield started their first TOPSoccer program, all because of Alex. That was probably one of the most fulfilling things I have experienced because he took something that he learned here working with us … to his community, just like what we strive to do here,” she said.
Esquivel said Blackburn’s dedication to PKSA helped set him on his current path.
“Amanda's leadership and involvement has allowed the game to progress significantly in Sedalia,” he said. “From organizing soccer games and leagues in every part of the year, to creating a TOPSoccer program allowing kids with (special needs) to enjoy, she really has given every kid in Sedalia a chance to fall in love with the game.”
During her tenure, PKSA has rolled out a collection of new programs, including futsal for youth and adults, higher competition leagues and Little Strikers, an educational program for 3- and 4-year-olds. She noted that PKSA’s mission statement is “to provide youth soccer at all levels.” While the new programs are growing, the fall recreational league that boasts more than 550 players will always be “the heart and soul of Paul Klover.”
Blackburn is quick to say she deserves no solo credit for PKSA’s success, praising past and current board members, volunteer coaches, referees and those players who return to give back to the program. Still, Blackburn’s dedication doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Now that I help with PKSA programs and get to work with Amanda, I get to see how much passion and hard work she puts into everything behind the scenes and the joy she brings to the soccer community in Sedalia,” Esquivel said.