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OPINION: Saying goodbye to The Wallingford invitational Soccer Tournament

It does not seem right that TWIST is coming to an end.

TWIST is one of those acronyms that invite redundancy. You can’t say the TWIST tournament. You can’t say Wallingford’s TWIST. If you do you’re repeating yourself. It’s The Wallingford Invitational Soccer Tournament. Yet any way you say it, at the moment, it’s time to say goodbye.

That’s after 36 years. Plenty of time to come up with clever headlines, like “Let’s TWIST again like they did last summer.”

It’s so long a time that you can ask, if they did it for 36 years why can’t they do it for 37?

I covered the tournament one year, years ago. What I remember most about it is that I locked my keys in the car one afternoon. No kidding. It’s funny how memory works. The second thing I remember about it was the absolute energy, which is what you’re going to get when you invite hordes of young people to your town for a weekend of play.

So, what is making one more year a year too far?

It appears to be linked to today’s usual suspect, the coronavirus pandemic. As Sean Krofssik reported for the Record-Journal, COVID-19 put the brakes on TWIST in 2020 and 2021. For an event that relies on volunteers, that two years is two years too much.

“The pandemic did take a toll on us,” said Dave Rodriguez, TWIST director. “We had to take two years off and we only had 45 volunteers, and we usually have a lot more than that. We had teams that found other tournaments to go to after we took those two years off and some didn’t return.”

The year I covered the tournament was 2010, which happened to be the year Rodriguez, along with Bill Hutchinson, took over from Bob Read and Gary Torelli. There were 93 teams competing that year, according to my R-J report, with teams coming from throughout the Northeast and Canada. At least 1,000 people were also around to watch, which added up to a boost for local businesses during the slow days of summer.

And then there are scholarships. As the R-J recently noted, more than $215,000 has been raised for the scholarship fund since the tournament started, plus $80,000 for lights on Wallingford fields. That adds up to a lot of lives influenced.

The R-J report said 100 teams are needed to draw that kind of money, and that effort has been falling short. “It was going to be a scramble to get 80 teams, so we looked at alternate plans to make it a smaller tournament, but ultimately we decided that this tournament has the reputation for being the best-run tournament in New England and we didn’t want to change that legacy,” Rodriguez said.

No, you don’t. Rodriguez’s statement includes an important observation: Wallingford ran the best-run tournament in New England.

This is adding up to a year of saying goodbye. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. has been in office while his town has been running this remarkable tournament. “It was a great experience for our youth and our coaches,” said the mayor, who is not seeking re-election. “TWIST will be missed.”

You still want to say, hey, let’s TWIST again like we did last summer, but it’s that type of continuity that has been so badly shaken by COVID-19. Yet I suspect I’m far from alone in hoping there’s a way to help this tournament survive.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.


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