Merritt Youth Soccer Association players will compete in a B.C. Soccer Association tournament for the first time in Kelowna this summer.
Barb Coates, Merritt Youth Soccer Association president, says that her organization has joined the B.C. Soccer Association, allowing local teams to play against teams outside of the Nicola Valley. The B.C. Soccer Association sanctions most youth soccer tournaments in the province.
“It’s the first year we’re going to make this happen,” says Coates.
“We have four rep teams going to one tournament this summer, which is new and exciting for us,” she says.
Tryouts for prospective rep players were held last week, although the final makeup of the teams has yet to be determined, according to Coates.
She says the teams hope to register for a tournament in Kelowna. Asked if locals would participate in any other tournaments, Coates says there are opportunities, assuming that teams and their coaches feel they are ready to take them on.
“We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew.”
Coates stresses that despite forming rep teams, the association’s main focus will stay on its house league, which makes up the bulk of players.
“We really want to protect our house teams.”
She notes that all rep players must play in the house league as well, and any rep games and practices cannot interfere with the same on those teams.
Coates says that about 450 players signed up for the soccer association’s 2012 season, which began in mid-April and ends in late June. They are playing on 32 teams across six divisions, ranging from four-year-olds in Timbits to teens up to the age of 18 in the Grade 8-plus group.
She says that number is a drop of about 50 players compared to last year. However, the drop has not had a great effect on the league since it was spread out among all age groups, Coates adds.
“We didn’t really expect our association to grow past 500 anyway.”
Coates says last year’s 500-strong roster was about as many as association volunteers could handle.
Joining the B.C. Soccer Association will also provide the Merritt Youth Soccer Association the means to offer coaching clinics locally, instead of sending coaches out of town for training, says Coates.
“It’s not coaching certification, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
She says that depending on interest, the association may offer training for referees as well.