Registration underway for Seth Ernst Memorial Soccer Slam

Claudia Loucks
Special to the Henry County Republic
Evelyn DeBaene, Stella Smith, Jill DePauw, and Owen Finegan will be among the players at the upcoming 16th Annual Seth Ernst Memorial Soccer Slam tournament at the Geneseo Foundation Activity Center. Registration is already underway for the upcoming tournament. Jill DePauw is the director of the annual Seth Ernst Memorial Soccer Slam.

Seth Ernst loved playing soccer and his parents, Dave and Betty Ernst, could always be found on the sidelines at their son’s games.

That was when he was on the playing field. Their son was a sophomore at Geneseo High School when he and two classmates died from injuries incurred in a car accident on Oct. 15, 2000.

Generous financial contributions were made to the Ernst family in memory of Seth, and the couple chose to seek an avenue to keep their son’s memory alive. The Seth Ernst Memorial Soccer Slam was organized in 2007 and continues today, with the 16th annual tournament set for Jan. 27-29 for boys and girls ages U6/7-U11 in addition to the U2Old Division which is for Geneseo School District residents and alumni, and Seth Slam coaches, along with one guest player; and from Feb. 24-26 for ages 12-14/15 and Geneseo High School students in grades 9-12. U14/15 players may not be in high school.

Registration deadlines are Jan. 6 for ages 6/7-11 and U2Old. The deadline for ages 12-14/15 and Geneseo High School is Feb. 3.

Special guests will be members of the wheelchair soccer team from the Socialization, Training, Rehabilitation, Independence, Vocation and Education (S.T.R.I.V.E.) Rehabilitation Center in Prophetstown, who will play a scrimmage against local heroes at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29. They will return for the second weekend of play vs local educators on Sunday, Feb. 26. There will again be a live and online auction for the second year conducted by Stenzel Auction Service at 2 p.m. on both Saturdays, Jan. 28 and Feb. 25.

Jill DePauw, tournament director, said, “The Seth Ernst Memorial Soccer Slam has supported STRIVE for many years by donating money to purchase handicapped running carts, special rock climbing equipment, basketball supplies and more to assist this extremely valuable organization.”

Jason Stenzel and the Stenzel Auction crew will conduct a live and online auction on Saturday, Jan. 28 and Saturday, Feb. 25, with online bidding. Anyone interested in donating an item for either of the auctions, should call DePauw at 309-945-2696.

Representatives from Whimsy Pixie Paint will return for the seventh year to provide face painting on Sunday, Jan. 29.

Registration for the soccer tournament currently is available online at www.sethernstsoccerslam.org. Information also is available from tournament director DePauw, 309-945-2696, or by email at soccer@sethernstsoccerslam.org

The indoor tournament is held in the Geneseo Foundation Activity Center, just north of Geneseo High School, 700 North State St.

“Geneseo Rec Soccer, Geneseo Soccer Club and Geneseo High School Soccer Boosters provide the bulk of our volunteers, along with many former players and fans of soccer or friends of the Ernst family. Because of this support, the tournament is able to offer at least four $1,000 scholarships each year - to two GHS senior boys and two GHS senior girls who have played soccer for at least three years. In fact, a total of $7,500 was awarded to applicants in 2022,” DePauw said.

Scholarship applications may be downloaded from Geneseo High School’s counseling page.

Mr. and Mrs. Ernst came up with the idea of the soccer tournament in their son’s memory and Mr. Ernst said, “It took some time for us to come up with the tournament idea,” Mr. Ernst said. “We wanted to have something that would be ongoing to keep Seth’s memory alive, and we wanted to have something that would benefit youth in Geneseo and the surrounding area.”

The couple met with the Geneseo Soccer Club along with members of the Geneseo High School Soccer Boosters.

“It was Greg Ogle who first suggested the tournament idea,” Mrs. Ernst said. “The people who have helped with this tournament since its beginning have done a great job and they continue to help each year. We have an amazing committee!”

The tournament became so popular that today it encompasses numerous ages.

“We added the U2Old Division because we wanted Seth’s friends who are out of high school to be able to come home and play soccer,” Mr. Ernst said.

In 2022, there were 87 teams involved in the tournament.

“Seth loved kids, loved to babysit and he loved to play soccer,” Mrs. Ernst said. “He was in youth soccer when he was five. I know Seth is proud of what the Geneseo soccer community has done.”

“Without faith, you don’t get through a loss like this,” Mr. Ernst said. “When we lost Seth, a friend said to us, ‘Isn’t it great to believe?’ and another said, ‘We’ll get to see him before we know it.’… We know where he is.”

On the day of the accident Mr. Ernst recalled his church pastor, the late Rev. Ron Webb, being at the Ernst home and commenting, “We can’t do anything about what happened, but we sure can do a lot about the future.’…The loss of Seth has taught us to enjoy each day and the people around us.”

Mr. Ernst said he and his wife plan to continue presenting awards at the Seth Ernst Memorial Slam “even when we are 90.”

The awards, too, are another unique aspect of the Soccer Slam. Sportsmanship pins are given to each coach at the start of every game. They then present the pin to one player on

the opposing team who best exemplified sportsmanship during that game. The main focus of this tourney has always been sportsmanship and again this year a special award will be presented to one team each day rated as the best team with overall sportsmanship. The referees and scorekeepers rate each team, their coaches and fans after every game.

“Our tournament is unique in the fact that the biggest award a team can earn is not for first place, it’s for sportsmanship” Mrs. Ernst said.

“We’ve had amazing support from local businesses,” Mr. Ernst said. “The tournament utilizes a sound system for both weekends thanks to Butch Bos. To start each day we have prayer and sing the National Anthem. There are CleverShare screens for viewing GoPro video from games, and double–sided scoreboards on pedestals for better viewing of the time and score.”

Mr. Ernst said, “This tournament would not be possible without an amazing core committee, hundreds of sponsors, the support of the Geneseo School District, and all of the amazing volunteers from Geneseo Rec Soccer, Geneseo Soccer Club and Geneseo High School Boosters.”

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor or a volunteer for the tournament, is asked email soccer@sethernstsoccerslam.org.

“Even though the tournament is a bittersweet time for our family, we know God has blessed us with this wonderful event,” Mrs. Ernst said