On a drizzly Thursday afternoon, Rick Deforge patrols the sidelines of the Charles Hays Secondary School soccer field.
On the pitch, his team, Prince Rupert FC, is having an intra-squad scrimmage to get ready for an upcoming tournament. The action is intense as the players work out the kinks before going on the road. Players yell out instructions to each other, pointing to space on the field that needs to be filled or a defensive assignment that needs to be picked up.
For the most part, Deforge is silent, occasionally yelling out words of encouragement to his players. For the most part, however, he is happy to let the men on the field figure things out. He is mostly happy that he has enough players to field a full scrimmage when it’s so damp outside.
“At first, we only had four players coming out for the drop-in practices,” he said. “Then we had eight or nine players, and now we’re up to about 20 players.”
Being a part of a growing program is something Deforge takes pride in as his love for the game runs deep.
Deforge played soccer for the first time when he was five years old. Originally from Timmins, Ontario, Deforge’s family moved to Powell River when his father, who worked in the Timmins’ mines, brought the family west for more opportunities.
As is the case with most young children, sport was a way for Deforge to settle into his new environment and make new friends, and in soccer, he found an outlet that matched his energetic personality.
“I tried really hard at everything and would play really rough and intense,” he said. “I enjoyed exerting myself and being able to run and burn physical energy.
“A great way to communicate with people is to get involved in any sport, not just soccer.”
Deforge practiced the philosophy of involvement through sport in his elementary and high school years, competing in volleyball, basketball, track and field, baseball as well as boxing.
As he reached the end of his high school career however, Deforge focused on soccer as his primary passion. He played with first division rep team in both Powell River and Nanaimo, taking the field alongside teammates who would eventually go on to play professionally in the early North American leagues.
When he started his own family, Deforge stepped back from playing so that he could coach his own children. He said he enjoyed the experience of watching young players develop both their skills and a love for the game.
“Children are excited to learn and more willing to learn than adults who are set in their ways,” he said. “As the kids get older, they move on to different coaches so you get to see them grow and get better over time.”
Deforge moved to Prince Rupert in 2015 when his wife, who is originally from the coastal city, wanted to be closer to her family as she was working through some health issues.
He immediately got involved with the city’s soccer community, first coaching the men’s team before stepping in to help coach the high school senior boys’ soccer team — which won the Northwest zone championships this year.
Deforge’s primary goal with the men’s team is to create an environment where the city’s younger players can continue to play even once they’ve completed their competitive high school careers.
“It’s a big thing for there to be a transition for those players so they can stay involved with the sport,” he said.
After three years of coaching in Prince Rupert, Deforge said he is beginning to see signs that the sport is gaining momentum. In addition to the success of the high school team and growth of the senior men’s team, there is a seven-a-side adult league that is entering its second year in addition to a new women’s soccer team that is competing in regional tournaments.
For Deforge, a man who used soccer to meet and make new friends, this is a positive spin.
“I see the interest picking up,” he said. “It means that there’s something happening in the community, there’s something going on and that’s been my favourite part.”