Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

KICKIN’ IT – One of the U7 girls attempts to control the ball as other players converge on her during the Haines Junction U7 jamboree game at the Canada Games Centre on March 6, 2022.

Image title

Photo by Morris Prokop

CHASING THE BALL – The House League 8/9 girls chase the ball at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse Thursday.

Image title

Photo by Morris Prokop

KICKING IT OUT – The House League 8/9 girls practice kicking the ball out of the box at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse Thursday.

Registration for girls soccer still open; coaching clinic coming up this weekend

Registration for girls soccer still open; coaching clinic coming up this weekend

By Morris Prokop on January 12, 2023

There's still time for local girls to get involved in indoor soccer this season.

The indoor soccer season started this week. The Star spoke with Whitehorse United FC board chair Travis Banks Wednesday.

"This is our first week of soccer so we officially started on Monday. Each night there's approximately two age groups of house league plus our Academy program. So three or four groups of soccer in total each night."

The soccer takes place at the Canada Games Centre. The Academy program is 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and the other programs go until 7:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday.

Banks explains what the Academy program is about.

"The Northern Lights Academy started back in midwinter 2021. We have it split into two age groups. So there's 12 and under, and then also a Senior Academy program which is 13 and over. And it's co-ed with some of our more experienced coaches in town. It's just additional training for kids who want it. It's not teams. It's not boys versus girls. It's co-ed, it's specialized training for those players who are keen for more soccer."

Banks said they are trying to get away from the term "elite program."

"We do have competitive travel training teams as well. Those would be boys' teams and girls' teams that train together and then fly outside of territory to tournaments to compete; that would be the closest thing to it. So we're really trying to get away from elite because that might push some people away.

"Up here, numbers are limited. So we really want to try to make it acceptable for anybody."

There are 335 kids registered for indoor soccer this year.

"We're starting to see an increase back up to pre-COVID numbers," related Banks. "It's really great. The boys' programs have all pretty much filled up. They're all more or less at capacity. There's the odd space, a little bit of wiggle room in the younger ages. But in terms of field space and field allocation, we're pretty much at capacity for (the) boys' program.

"The girls' programs do still have – we'll always keep the door open for any of the girls that want to come out just because their numbers are lower compared to the boys.

"The numbers are slowly increasing. I think last winter we had maybe around 200 registrations."

According to Banks, prior to COVID, the number of kids registered would have been 300-400.

There were over 600 children registered for the 2022 outdoor soccer season.

"It was huge," said Banks.

During the COVID -19 pandemic, that number was about 200-250.

Banks said the higher numbers in the summer are due to a few factors.

They include a shorter season and not a lot of hockey or school sports.

Banks also pointed out that soccer is also cheaper and easily accessible.

"Really, all you need is shoes."

Of the growing numbers, Banks said "It's really positive. It's really good to see.

"We also have quite an uptick in volunteer like, parents, coach involvement. This year, it's a lot easier on me. A lot more people stepped up and volunteered. Post-COVID, they're just looking to be more involved."

Banks said they could still use more coaches, though.

"Ideally for our house league, I want to try to find two coaches per team. If one parent can't make it or maybe it's a larger number of kids on the team, it's just easier to manage with two adults. Some teams only have one, so we're not necessarily at capacity for coaches."

For U4 and U5, the Tots program is co-ed. U6 and U7 are co-ed. Eight and above are split into boys and girls players.

"We're slowly splitting the age groups into boys group and girls groups and it seems to be nothing but positive. The girls, their numbers are lower, but they're having a lot more fun," said Banks.

"With the girls separated they get their own practice time. They get their own coaches. So that's a lot more time on the ball and a lot more confidence building and team building."

Banks explained why they're going back to playing more games in minor soccer.

"We're trying to change it back to the old fashioned way of house league is where your games are. The Academy or the travel group, that's where your practice and training is.

"We're asking coaches to (do) 10,15 minutes practice/warm up. Try to get the players into playing games just because the sort of overall feedback over the last little while was that kids are just missing games."

According to Banks, kids are saying 'We're tired of social distance practice and passing and things like that. We just want to play.'"

Banks is happy the season is underway.

"It's good. It's really rewarding for me. Like, the families out there and the kids out there having fun.

"It's super rewarding to see 100 kids on the field at once, all playing soccer and having a good time. Whereas this time last year, we had maybe 40 kids on at a time and that was maximum capacity."

According to Banks, the field is split up for the younger age groups, but not for the older players, as they're at the age where they need almost the full field for their games.

As for tournaments, Yukon soccer hosts their annual Yukon Champs March 3-5.

"All of our teams go to that and I often end up helping sort of plan and coordinate because I'm the one with the contact list and all of the teams and everything but it's not necessarily like my tournament, so to speak.

"It's an annual indoor tournament wrap up. It's been going on for years. I played in that as a kid. Something to look forward to at the end of the indoor season," added Banks.

As for the Toonie Tournament, "We held a smaller Toonie Tournament in November," related Banks. "We just did it over one day, so a little bit different than normal.

"Haines Junction did bring a couple teams down, three, maybe four, but then the fourth team was a combined group."

The Toonie tournaments were a fundraiser for the food bank.

"We fundraised about four grocery baskets or totes, four or five of those worth of food. Plus about $400 was raised for the food bank as well.

"It was small. We didn't have a huge amount of teams."

Banks added that a coaching clinic is coming up.

"This weekend, we have our technical director, Neil Sedgwick coming up. He's been our club technical director since 2021. It was his idea to put the Northern Lights Academy together. He's been helping us throughout the new curriculum and all sorts of stuff. He's coming up and putting on a couple free coaching courses for the coaches in our program. That's something that we've talked about. How do we give back to our volunteers but also how do we bring up the level of our soccer community. So the decision was maybe we should start with some coaching courses and resources to the parents who are volunteering their time.

"Over the course of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, he's putting on a handful of courses for various age groups.

"Neal's just an endless soccer resource," said Banks. "A great opportunity and it's no cost to coaches. Just one of the ways we're saying thank you."

"We have an online, call it a registration form. It's really just a contact list, so we have an idea of the numbers that are going to come. If anybody wants to check things out, they can email me the form there." Bank's email is footballclubwhitehorse@gmail.com

Be the first to comment

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.