Last Saturday, the varsity girls soccer team went head-to-head in a tough game against O’Bryant High School, eventually winning 2-1 to bring their record to 12-4-1. The varsity boys soccer team was off-Island, defeating North Reading High School 3-2 to stretch their record to 12-2-2.

The common denominator for many players on both varsity squads was starting out in the Martha’s Vineyard United recreational league under the watchful eye of Richard Bennett.

Mr. Bennett has spent nearly 20 years on the fields behind the West Tisbury school helping young soccer players grow into competitive athletes. Running MV United, he said, has given him the opportunity to impart his love of the sport to players across the Island.

“I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now and I’m pushing 80,” Mr. Bennett said. “But I’m in no way thinking about retiring at all.”

Richard Bennett has led the recreational soccer league for nearly 20 years. — Ray Ewing

Mr. Bennett played soccer in high school, college and post-collegiately, while also remaining in touch with the sport for decades as a coach and referee. When he moved to the Vineyard after a career as a Harvard professor, he began refereeing games of all age groups before landing with the youth recreational program.

“To see kids playing the sport and having fun, to me it makes it all worthwhile,” Mr. Bennett said on Saturday at the fields, as kids not much bigger than soccer balls practiced their moves, while volunteer coaches and parents cheered them on.

Mr. Bennett’s work with the recreational league is just one piece of the puzzle for MV United, which has teams for preschool-aged players all the way up to 12th grade. Mr. Bennett said players don’t really start thinking competitively until around fifth grade, and so the league’s curriculum adds more complex aspects of the game as the players move up in age groups.

“We’re developing players who want to stay with it so they can go on to the next level,” he said.

For the league’s youngest players, the goal is to get familiar with the ball and the field.

Building skills from the ground up. — Ray Ewing

“It’s all about touching the ball as much as you can,” Mr. Bennett said.

He credited all the volunteer coaches over the years for making the league a success.

Dana Rezendes coaches the pre-K and kindergarten age group this fall. “Our children are playing and we figured we might as well participate,” she said. “It’s really impressive — I think Richard gets all the credit.”

Fellow coach Isaiah Scheffer agreed.

“They just try to accommodate so many people — so many families,” he said.

Mr. Bennett said it has taken years to grow the program into what it is now. When he took over the recreation league, there were around 150 players. Now he said there are about 350 players, with another 150 kids in the upper age groups and the MV United travel team.

“It has been a long process, but I think we’re at a really good place right now,” he said.

And while he is deferential to the league’s coaches and fellow organizers, Mr. Bennett has left his mark on the culture of the game Island-wide.

“I’ve been kind of a permanent fixture more or less for the last 15 or 20 years,” he said.