BY IAN THORPE
Fall is synonymous with soccer season. And though artificial fields are becoming more common, what player or parent doesn’t associate soccer matches with wet weather and muddy pitches?
The beautiful game has been in the news at many levels recently. The VIU men’s and women’s teams have been taking part in CCAA nationals and at the high school level, the Dover Bay senior boys’ team was at AAA Island Championships this month in Victoria. We’ll have more on those stories at a future date, but for now let’s turn to local youth soccer.
The current youth season has now been running for nearly two months, with nearly 1,800 local youngsters ages 5-18 enrolled with Nanaimo United FC.
For a number of years now, youth soccer has encouraged a fun environment for players by letting them develop abilities in small groups playing on smaller-sized fields. That starts with a popular Little Kickers program for U4, U5 and U6 players that introduces basic skills.
In what is termed the Tier 4 level of soccer, there are several divisions of recreational club play. Seven girls’ teams and 13 boys’ teams take part in four-a-side play for U7 and U8 players, using a mini-field and no goal keepers. Players in the U9- U10 age group have six-a-side games with goalkeepers, this year involving 12 teams of girls and 20 of boys. Most games in these divisions happen Saturdays on the Beban fields. Another group of 12 girls’ teams and 19 boys’ teams in the U11- U13 division move to eight-a-side games, as do four boys’ teams and four girls’ teams in the U14-U15 age group that play on a half-sized field. Minor soccer this year in Tier 4 also includes two teams of co-ed U16-U18 players. For club teams, the season runs through until the beginning of March, then wraps up with fun tournaments for the various age levels.
Tier 3 rep teams compete in the Upper Island competitive league for U12 to U18 players. Nanaimo fields a total of eight teams in the U12 and U13 age groups that play eight-a-side and another seven teams in the older divisions that play 11-a-side. Home games are usually on Sundays at Meryl Logan field in Beban Park.
Youth soccer teams in Tier 2 competition are comprised of U14 to U18 entries in the Vancouver Island Premier League, featuring rep teams from Upper Island and Lower Island. Nearly 80 Nanaimo players are involved on boys’ and girls’ Upper Island Storm teams and compete in Coastal Cup playdowns.
Finally, Tier 1 is the top competitive level for youth soccer. A number of local players take part as members of the Vancouver Island Wave, with home games in Victoria as they compete in the B.C. Soccer Premier League and provincial cup playdowns.
Here in Nanaimo, Nanaimo United FC staff is headed up by technical lead Daragh Fitzgerald and member services coordinator Jade Richardson. Club coach for U4-U8 teams is Kaylie Rafuse, while club coach for U9-U18 and goalkeepers is Geoff Hackett. Head referee is Ross Cameron.
Nanaimo United also includes adult soccer for local players. This year the club features men’s teams taking part in Divisions 1, 2 and 4 of the Vancouver Island Soccer League, as well as in the U21 division. Nanaimo ladies’ teams are entered in the Lower Island Women’s Soccer Association. This year, there is local representation in Divisions 1, 2 and the premier league. Men’s and women’s home games are usually on Sundays at Merle Logan Field.
For more information about any level of Nanaimo United soccer, contact the soccer office at 250-729-9400.
Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.