A recent visit to the Harbour City Football Club’s headquarters suggests that another season of youth soccer in the Nanaimo area is up and running successfully.
Joel Butler is the staff administrator for youth soccer, co-ordinating things from the office located in the Lions Pavilion at the Beban Park Gyro Youth Sports Fields. He reports that the season is well underway, with a total of 1,744 boys and girls ages 5-18 registered in soccer this year. That number is up from last year and reflects a steady rise over the past several seasons.
Heading up the executive of youth soccer is president Jason Coates, assisted by vice-president Michael Wassermann, treasurer Sarah Nickolet and secretary Cindy Cooper. Also on the board of directors are Jessica Kirby, Todd Moore, Gunnar Myhrer, Andrew Francis, Daragh Fitzgerald, Geoff Hackett and Jim Betker.
For the youngest players, a fun start to soccer is provided through the Little Kickers program. This is an eight-week series of fun scrimmages for U4 and U5 players which introduces the sport in an unstructured manner. Following that, skills are gradually taught to small groups of players using smaller-sized fields for their games. The U6 players play three-a-side games and the U7s and U8s four-a-side games, both with no goalkeepers.
The next age groups up, the U9 and U10s, move to six-a-side games with goalkeepers, but still using a smaller field on which to play. Players in U11, U12 and U13 leagues play eight-a-side matches, allowing all players to get more touches on the ball. Games for all of these age groups are played on Saturday mornings on the Beban fields, with a fun atmosphere created by having multiple mini-games being played at the same time. With hundreds of youngsters running around, it’s controlled chaos – and a great spectacle for viewers.
It’s only when players are U14 or older that they graduate to playing regulation 11-a-side matches on full-sized fields. House games for these teams in the HCFC system are also played on Saturdays, usually at Harry Wipper Field, Bowen West, or Merle Logan Field. Nanaimo fields four boys’ and two girls’ teams at the U14-U15 level, as well as two boys’ teams and two girls’ teams at the U16-U18 age level.
The Nanaimo club also fields rep teams in the Upper Island League, which plays on Sundays. Harbour City is represented by two U12 boys’ squads, two U13 teams, one U15 team and one U18 squad. As well, there is one U12 girls’ team, two at the U13 level and one each at U15 and U17 divisions.
Sundays also feature matches in the Vancouver Island Premier League, played at Merle Logan. The VIPL is a Tier 2 rep league consisting of eight regions including the Upper Island. Nanaimo players make up more than half of the composition of Upper Island teams. Boys’ and girls’ squads known as the Upper Island Storm compete in U14, U15, U16 and U18 age divisions.
As has always been the case, soccer continues to be one of the main youth sports organizations in the Nanaimo area.
Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.