Accepting the fact that soccer is a wonderful sport – one that is gradually gaining stature in North America but which is the major game played throughout the world – the other main attraction is the low costs for both registration and for equipment.
While, for example, it costs hundreds of dollars to outfit a young hockey player the only requirement for soccer is a pair of cleats and shin pads.
The registration fee has remained unchanged for a decade. And while the youth population of the region has fallen dramatically the numbers have remained in the 200 range for years as the interest continues unabated.
The game in Sackville, under the auspices of the Sackville Minor Soccer Association (SMSA), took off under the leadership of Charlie Hunter who had an outstanding playing and organizational background.
The current Mountie soccer field was home for the minor athletes and the game was firmly established under his guidance. After a slight dip, the program was taken on by Gene Ouellette and he has led it until this season when Gregor MacAskill stepped forward to take on the mantle.
Ouellette remains as technical director, thus providing a valuable asset, especially to the more senior players. Kate Crawford adds much to the mix, having played four years in the NCAA Division 1 with University of Maine Black Bears. She devotes considerable time to the under 14s – a key age as they are readying for Tantramar.
Ouellette is head coach of the Mount Allison Mounties women and previously headed the Titan men’s team for five seasons.
Kate is the assistant coach with the Mounties while Titan girls coach Nev Garrity is one of the main knowledgeable coaches working in the system.
During a discussion Kate said games are held four days a week with the Lorne Street field busy on Monday and Wednesday evenings while the scene shifts to Tantramar for Tuesday and Thursday matches.
Soccer New Brunswick has come up with a program that is being used here.
It is designed to introduce children as young as four to the game, and the idea is to keep them interested and to attempt to teach a few of the rudimentary rules although it is often “play time.”
Many parents volunteer to work at this level and Crawford says things are moving smoothly.
The players are placed according to age and the under 10’s play as a co-ed unit while those in the U12, U14 and U16 have both boys and girls teams.
The older groups not only play locally but are involved in league play with teams from such communities as Moncton, Shediac and towns in Kent County.
This means a good deal of travel and parents are usually lined up to provide the transportation.
Even though town staff maintain the fields, the program can cost as much as $30,000, but the association manages to balance its operations budget each year. A third of the money goes to Soccer New Brunswick.
While it may sometimes seem like a “madhouse” the competition can be keen and the children are having a wonderful time while gaining valuable experience by learning team play and self discipline.
So, for four nights a week soccer fans and those who simply love to see active young people may trot off to one of the fields and enjoy the friendly competition and perhaps decide to pitch in and get involved.