Following a Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission walking tour of facilities at Beban Park last Saturday morning, I wandered over to watch some soccer action on the Gyro Sports Fields.
What a fantastic sight. Literally hundreds of young players enthusiastically involved in about a dozen mini games organized all over the large field complex. Youngsters were swarming after the ball, learning basic skills and obviously having great fun. Tents and banners around the fields and parents offering encouragement as they clutched their cups of hot chocolate, added to the festival atmosphere.
It has been a period of change for local youth soccer, and it seems that past challenges have largely been overcome.
What used to be the Nanaimo and District Youth Soccer Association or the Nanaimo Youth Soccer Club is now the Harbour City Football Club. Club teams from our city compete in a regional league with those from Gabriola, Mid-Isle and Oceanside in the Upper Island Soccer League. And rep Tier 2 teams play on Sundays in the Vancouver Island Premier League.
But it all starts with the youngest players in mini soccer on small-sized fields – the U6 to U10 games seen Saturday morning at Beban Park. The U6 division has 11 teams of boys and girls taking part in three-a-side games with no goalkeepers. Similarly, there are no keepers at the U7 or U8 levels, where 14 teams in each division play four-a-side games.
U9 mini soccer features 12 teams this year, playing five-a-side with a goalkeeper involved and the U10 age group has 10 teams using goalkeepers competing in six-a-side matches.
The process continues as the players get older, gradually playing on slightly larger fields with more players. There are a total of 23 teams in total of U11, U12 and U13 players who play eight-a-side contests. Full eleven-a-side games on full size fields don’t happen until the U14/15 division where eight teams compete and the U16-18 age group with five teams involved. For those matches, fields such as Bowen West, Harry Wipper and Merle Logan are used.
Heading up youth soccer this season is new HCFC president Bobbie Taylor. Tony Zuccaro is vice president, Jason Coates is treasurer, Gunnar Myhrer is club secretary and Erick Groot is the registrar. Also on the board of directors are volunteer coordinator Jessica Kirby, equipment coordinator Mike Wasserman, mini coordinator Michael Brown, youth coordinator Jazz Sohal and health and safety director Tony Ciammaichella.
Total registration for youth players in the Harbour City Football Club is at approximately 1,500, making it one of the most popular fall and winter sports. Teams take a Christmas break, and of course weather is always a factor, but basically the season runs through until mid-March. Delivering expert advice to coaches and players during the season is the club’s new technical director Wayne Evans. A former professional player and coach in England, Evans saw action as a member of the Welsh national team. He has now taken charge of the HCFC’s Centre of Excellence, looking to maximize players’ skills by working on the technical, tactical, physical, social and psychological aspects of the sport.
Also new to the Harbour City Football Club this season is office administrator Joel Butler. The office is located in the Lions Pavilion at Beban Park and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. For any information on youth soccer and the HCFC, telephone Joel at 250-729-9400.
Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.