Soccer players lace cleats for new season

Soccer has long been one of the most popular sports in our city. So organizers at all levels have been busy during the weeks past getting ready for the kickoff of the new season.

Fall is here, which is just another way of saying that soccer season is underway once again…

Soccer has long been one of the most popular sports in our city. So organizers at all levels have been busy during the weeks past getting ready for the kickoff of the new season.

Last spring, elections for the Nanaimo Youth Soccer Club saw Liam Roden take over as the incoming president, replacing long-time volunteer Anup Kang who had held the post since 2002. Others on this year’s executive include vice-president Carl Neibel, treasurer Trish Crumpton and secretary Lynn Boyetchko. Rob Jakobsen is the club’s registrar, field coordinators are Jeff Till and Jeannie Isbister, equipment manager is Glenn Doumont and referee is Harry Sommerfeld.

An important addition to the NDYSA during the off-season was the hiring of Claude Bolton as the new technical director for Nanaimo Youth Soccer. Bolton, who has more than a decade of professional coaching experience and has achieved some of the highest certification levels in North America, has brought a great deal of expertise and excitement to the local organization. As part of his duties, he is head coach and head of the District Development Centre which provides additional training for keen players and teams during the season.

This season, youth teams from Nanaimo, Mid-Island, Oceanside and Gabriola Island have joined forces as part of Nanaimo and District Youth Soccer. A total of more than 1,600 players have registered and leagues are now underway for all age groups.

The youngest of those are the pony league girls’ and boys’ teams. Jim Rutherford and Carl Neibel are the coordinators for the league, which is geared to provide a gradual introduction to the fun and fundamentals of the game on smaller-sized fields. At the U6 level, a total of 13 teams take part in three-a-side mini-games with no goalkeepers. Similarly, there are no goalkeepers at the U7 and U8 levels, where four-a-side games involve another 15 and 17 teams respectively. There are 13 teams this year in the U9 Pony League, which features six-a-side games using keepers and another 12 teams in the U10 division that plays seven a side with goalkeepers. It’s great to watch these young players enjoy their matches and they can be seen on Saturdays with most games held on Beban Park’s Gyro Youth Sports Fields.

Coordinating the various divisions of U11 to U18 teams are Bruce Labelle and Trish Crumpton. Players on U11 to U15 girls’ and boys’ teams take to the pitch on Saturdays, using the full-sized Serauxmen Sports Fields, Harry Wipper Park, or the two artificial turf fields at Beban. Enrolled this season in the U11 division are 10 teams for boys and eight for girls. The U12 age group involves nine boys’ teams and another nine girls’ entries. In the U13 division, there are seven teams entered in both boys’ and girls’ competition. Scheduling at the U14/15 level features a total of eight teams of boys this season and another nine teams of girls.

Older youth soccer players in the U16-18 age group have their matches on Sundays, usually at Merle Logan Field. Registered this season are eight boys’ squads in the U16-18 division, along with 10 girls’ teams of U17 players.

In addition to all of the above teams, Nanaimo and District Youth Soccer this year is fielding a U17 girls’ rep team that takes part in Upper Island competition. As well, something new this year sees four boys’ and girls’ teams of U14 and U15 players competing in the new Vancouver Island Premier League. These teams of dedicated higher-level players have been training together since the summer and this inaugural season of the league will have the squads competing against top Lower Island Soccer Association teams rather than having to travel to Vancouver as part of the metro league. The hope is that the VIPL will be able to expand to older age groups next season.

While there is plenty of excitement about the year ahead in local youth soccer, belated congratulations are also due to the Nanaimo U16 girls’ select team that last season captured the B.C. Soccer Association’s Provincial B Cup gold medal. The local girls first won the Upper Island Soccer Association U16-18 league. They then went on to claim the provincial title in Penticton last July, defeating Coquitlam 4-1 in the championship final. A super achievement for team coaches Lanny Cronan and Dale Nicks, manager Dave Leigh and players Nicola Houtman, Paige Hughes, Ashley Elliot, Darby Cronan, Nadya Geselbracht, Jamie Belfry, Aiyanna Grubac, Caitlyn Allbury, McKenzie Nicks, Emily Shires, Sammie Owen, Taylor Sampson, Kayte Higgins, Gabby Jeffrey, Francesca Maestrello and Madison Leigh.

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

Ian Thorpe writes about sports Saturdays.