BY IAN THORPE
A new name. A new logo. And a renewed commitment to the sport of soccer in the Nanaimo area. There have been some exciting changes during the past few months; changes that reflect a vision of ‘soccer for life’ in our city.
What was once Nanaimo Youth Soccer Association changed its name several years ago to Harbour City Football Club. Meanwhile, Nanaimo United Football Club existed for local men’s and ladies’ teams in town. Now the youth and adult groups have amalgamated to form Nanaimo United FC, a cradle to grave club in Nanaimo for players from three years old to 103!
Heading up the board of NUFC is president Jason Coates, assisted by Michael Wassermann as vice-president. Club secretary is Heather Vogels, treasurer is Tim Mawdsley and other directors are Michael Blumentrath, Sarah Nicolet, Jessica Kirby, Todd Moore, Michael Brown and Adrian Robertshaw.
Staff member Jade Richardson is the member service coordinator, directing things from the soccer office located in the Lions Pavilion at the Beban Park Gyro Youth Sports Fields. Coaching expertise is headed up by Daragh Fitzgerald as the club’s technical lead. Maddy Dawson is the club coach for U4-U8 and Geoff Hackett is club coach for U9-U18. Head referee for the organization is Ross Cameron.
Total registration for youth players ages 3-18 this year is close to 1,800. Leagues are underway, but there is still room for players in some age groups. For the youngest players, a fun start to soccer is provided through the Little Kickers program. This is a series of fun movement activities for three-to-six-year-olds that introduce the sport by teaching physical literacy skills.
Following that, skills are gradually taught to small groups of players using smaller-sized fields for their games. The U7 and U8 players play four-a-side games with no goalkeepers, then U9 and U10 players move to six-a-side games with goalies. Players in U11, U12 and U13 leagues play eight-a-side matches, allowing all players to get more touches on the ball. Most games for all of these age groups are played on Saturday mornings on the Beban fields, with a fun atmosphere created by having multiple games being played at the same time. House games in the U14 to U18 age groups are also now eight-a-side, as are games for three teams of co-ed U16-U18 players.
NUFC also fields 11-a-side rep teams which compete in the Upper Island Tier 3 League. A total of eight boys’ and six girls’ squads of mainly Nanaimo players are involved in the U12-U18 divisions, with games on Sundays, usually at Merle Logan field.
Sundays also feature matches in the Vancouver Island Premier League. The VIPL is a Tier 2 Rep league featuring teams from various regions including the Upper Island. This year there are four Upper Island Storm boys’ teams and another four girls’ teams in U14-U18.
As for competitive adult soccer, NUFC features women’s teams in the premier division, Div. 1 and Div. 3 of the Lower Island Women’s Soccer Association. Also men’s entries in Div. 1 and 2 of the Vancouver Island Soccer League, along with a men’s development squad in Div. 3.
This coming weekend, to celebrate the merger, Nanaimo United FC will host a special soccer jamboree for its youth and adult players. The event is being billed as a great family and community event and will provide Nanaimo fans to enjoy some high-level soccer action. Kickoff goes at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Merle Logan Field, with Nanaimo United Div.1 men hosting Cowichan FC and Nanaimo United Div.1 women taking on Vic West FC. At 4 p.m., Nanaimo United premier women go against Bays United FC and at 6 p.m. it will be Nanaimo United Div.2 men against Prospect Lake. For more information on the jamboree or the various soccer divisions, call 250-729-9400.
Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.