The pew or the soccer field?

It's a choice some clergy say no soccer mom, dad or kid should have to make - and the reason for a plea asking coaches and youth organizers not to schedule games on Sunday mornings."It used to be that people had respect for Sunday morning," said John Sumwalt, pastor of Wauwatosa Avenue United Methodist Church, one of 22 area clergy who have signed a letter asking for Sunday-free soccer.

The Rev. Gary Erickson, pastor at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, said youth soccer "kind of dominates everything and gives us a back seat. I think it's about time to get back to what's healthy and what's good."

But the complaint from the clergy ignores other religions - and doesn't reflect most parents' views, said Mark Botterill, executive director of the Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club, where 11,000 youngsters ages 5 to 19 play each weekend.

He said he has switched games from Saturday to Sunday to accommodate Jewish parents. But there are few complaints from parents at all, he said.

"We don't hold anybody hostage that they have to be at the event," he said.

Though baseball, hockey and basketball programs play host to tournaments all weekend long, soccer was singled out in the Milwaukee area after the Wauwatosa Fest soccer tournament started scheduling games on Sunday mornings this year, leaving parents and children to make the difficult choice, Sumwalt said.

The problem became more serious when a parochial league began playing Sunday mornings on fields near the archbishop's office, said Scott Weyda, an associate superintendent for the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese.

The archdiocese plans to ban play of church-sponsored leagues on Sunday mornings, Weyda said.

Botterill said he thinks soccer and church aren't necessarily in conflict. Both bring families together, making soccer a "melting pot for families to get together," he said.

Botterill's suggestion? Invite clergy to the games and have sermons on the greens.