A race for the ball at the U13/ U15 mixed division gold medal match between Chemo RV (yellow) and Cariboo Forest (green) at Quesnel Youth Soccer Association’s indoor facility, in a prior year. (Ronan O’Doherty photo)

A race for the ball at the U13/ U15 mixed division gold medal match between Chemo RV (yellow) and Cariboo Forest (green) at Quesnel Youth Soccer Association’s indoor facility, in a prior year. (Ronan O’Doherty photo)

Kicking things off for Quesnel youth soccer

Saturday is the start of outdoor soccer for the QYSA

The sound of a foot striking a soccer ball is one of sports’ great sonic sensations. There will be so much of it, Saturday, that it might feel like thunder rolling across the valley from the Quesnel Youth Soccer Association’s (QYSA) facilities on Anderson Drive. After winter training inside their spacious footie palace, May 6 is when all that athletic energy bursts outside.

The pandemic shrank the city’s soccer ranks, as almost all sports and culture organizations experienced, but now, record numbers are signing up to kick it, Cariboo style.

“We are on-pace with last year (massive numbers, compared to COVID times), and last year was high. We should be exceeding last year’s numbers,” said QYSA president Justin Kruger. He added that new programs and training options are available like never before, so there will also be better athlete and family engagement with the sport.

Every Saturday, there will be a time slot devoted to each age category, where there is some practice time and some game-play. There is no minimum age, as the U4 Tiny Tots program will get the littlest members of the family out on the pitch for age-appropriate activites just to make them laugh and run as they wish, in the soccer environment. There is a 5-6 division, a 7-8-division, and so on, upwards into the teen years.

“We have a good core of coaches that are parents who work in our development programs and our community programs, and their word of mouth gets out there, and we are always looking for a few more but overall fairly healthy,” said Sue Herring, the executive and technical director for QYSA.

The training and games will lead to some teams heading down to represent Quesnel at the Slushee Cup in Kamloops over the May long weekend.

There will also be a set of developmental days shared between Quesnel, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake to provide more game-like conditions for Cariboo soccer players, but in a friendly environment.

It’s all leading towards the summer’s big event in Quesnel on the June 23-25 weekend.

“Northern Cup, provincial playdowns, zones…I’ve heard it called all sorts of different names,” said Herring. “There’s a girls’ competition and a boys’ for ages 13 to 18, and it’s all the Cariboo District and all the Northern District together. Whoever wins goes to the provincial B-level cup, and we are hosting the boys’ event this year.”

The girls’ side will be hosted in Smithers, and Quesnel has hopes of sending a team or two to that event, if enough girls play.

Each age from 13 to 18 will have teams competing to represent the north at the provincials. Each town will field a team in the age streams they have the numbers for. A small town may only venture into the tournament with one or two teams in their strongest areas of registration, but a town like Prince George, Terrace, even Quesnel may run a team in all age streams.

“We’ll hope to have a few food trucks on site, and games will be going on from morning to sunset,” said Herring.

Kruger said the ratio of girl registrations to boy numbers is at least 25 per cent, and perhaps as high as 30-plus per cent. Registration is still open, so the numbers aren’t firm yet, but QYSA is encouraged by the growing presence of female players within the high numbers of boys signing up to play. It’s putting Quesnel soccer in a strong position.

The public is encouraged to come to the soccer fields on Saturday and sink into the spirit of the global game.

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