Kids get their kicks with soccer

With the cold and wet fall weather now firmly upon us, you have to know that another youth soccer season is underway…

With the cold and wet fall weather now firmly upon us, you have to know that another youth soccer season is underway…

It has now been three years since the Nanaimo Youth Soccer Association was rebranded as Harbour City Football Club and there have been ongoing changes to the organization during that time. Acting president is club treasurer Jason Coates and association secretary is Gunnar Myhrer.

Administration is in the Lions Pavilion located at Beban Park’s Gyro Youth Sports Field complex. At the office there, Joel Butler is the club administrator. The soccer office is also home to the association’s expanded Centre of Excellence, offering training sessions during the year to coaches and players. This year, head coach Wayne Evans has been joined by assistant coaches Daragh Fitzgerald and Anthony Vassells and goalkeeping coach Geoff Hackett.

One thing that has remained constant with local youth soccer is the popularity of the sport for young players. Total registration this season for boys and girls ages six to 18 is pegged at just under 1,700 – up by about 200 from last year.

An innovation this year is the Just for Kicks program for players with developmental disabilities.

For several years now, Harbour City Football Club has promoted a fun and developmentally appropriate environment for players by letting them develop skills in small groups playing on smaller fields. For the very youngest age group youth soccer offers the Little Kickers program – an eight-week session of fun scrimmages for under-five players to introduce them to the sport in an unstructured way. Next comes three-a-side games for U6 players on small fields with no goalkeepers. U7 and U8 teams play four-a-side, also without keepers. U9 and U10 players take the next step by playing six-a-side games that introduce the position of goalkeeper.  The U11 to U13 age group play eight-a-side.

The majority of the above games are played Saturdays at Beban, with multiple games happening at the same time amidst a carnival atmosphere. It makes for an impressive spectacle for viewers, with hundreds of youngsters running around having fun all over the fields.

It’s not until players are U14 or older that full eleven-a-side matches are played on full-sized fields, with Harry Wipper field, Bowen West and the artificial turf fields being utilized for house league matches on Saturdays.

This year, Nanaimo fields nine boys’ or girls’ rep teams of various age groups in the Upper Island League. Matches are played on Sundays.

Also on Sundays at the Merle Logan artificial turf field are matches in the Vancouver Island Premier League. The VIPL is a Tier 2 rep league consisting of eight regional squads. Our region is represented by the Upper Island Storm, composed of mainly Nanaimo players.

Soccer has always been a big part of Nanaimo’s sports history and the Harbour City Football Club is continuing that tradition for youths in our community.

Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.