By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT MITCHELL - They say Greater Cincinnati is the epicenter of youth soccer in the United States. Now a family from Fort Mitchell has made it official.
The Schmitt clan - mom Kelly, dad Karl, kids Elizabeth and Alex - won the grand prize in a national "Soccer Family of the Year" contest sponsored by U.S. Youth Soccer, Whirlpool Home Appliances and Tide.
The only requirement for entry was a 150-word essay describing the family's soccer involvement. Elizabeth, 13, got creative, filling her piece with tiny drawings such as one that depicted her mother shouting, "Go!" with both arms raised.
"No. 1 Fan!" Elizabeth wrote about her mom in between the illustrations. "Endless energy. Volunteer director of public relations for youth soccer club."
And that's just mom. Elizabeth and her brother, 11, who attend Beechwood School, have played select soccer for years and also serve as linesmen. Dad Karl is a long-time coach and volunteer president of the TC Soccer Club in Wilder. A physician by trade, Schmitt also takes soccer balls and uniforms to children in Belize when he travels on medical missions.
For their "dedication to sportsmanship, leadership, community and creativity of entry," the Schmitts won a free trip to Los Angeles for the Major League Soccer championship game two weeks ago, as well as $20,000 for a college savings fund for the children and a full set of new appliances.
"When we found out we had won, I was completely speechless. We were all so excited," Kelly Schmitt said.
The Schmitts live in one of the strongest youth soccer regions in the country. The recreational Soccer Association for Youth started in Cincinnati, and the city has 40,000 SAY players, the most in the nation.
For Soccer Family of the Year, "They're a great choice," says J.T. Roberts, director of soccer at the Town & Country Sports Complex in Wilder. "In every aspect, they symbolize what the true American soccer family should be."
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