PRINCE RUPERT -
The Prince Rupert Youth Soccer Association is in full swing as evidenced by the fields full of players, parents and packed snacks all across Prince Rupert.
City league squads are enjoying their second month of play in what is usually a short season on the North Coast, as families ready to camp and take extended vacations come the hotter July and August months.
During the first game day in June for the under-10 division at Roosevelt Park Elementary School field last Tuesday, battle-tested squads like Safeway and YPR took to the soggy, grassy pitch to test their skills against one another.
But the goal isn’t always winning or losing, especially at this age, explained Safeway head coach Ken Minette last week. Often the aim is more to keep the kids involved, getting as many ball touches as possible and learning the fundamentals that can set them up for possible select team involvement in future age groups.
“Moving into space – that’s a big thing for this age group and not getting all jumbled together,” said Minette.
“We play five aside, they still have trouble spreading out, but that’s the intention. They look for space, spread out and trying to make clean passes just ahead of their players so the players run on ahead of the ball, and I must say that in this short period of time, you really notice a lot of growth.”
It’s a nice ritual for the players every game and practice days. Some of their friends and classmates are on the same teams, and sometimes they match up opposite each other in different jersey colours.
Gurvir Gill, a Grade 3 player on Minette’s Safeway team and assistant coach Gurvinder Randhawa’s nephew, enjoys learning about new drills in practice. He’s played soccer since he was five.
“[We learn how to] dribble around the defenders, keep the ball away from the defenders and make it harder for them to get the ball to you,” Gill said.
The young athlete, who also plays basketball and is a mainstay at the Taekwondo and Martial Arts Centre (and going for his black stripe this week) likes playing forward.
“I just like to score a lot and dribble around, and just run a lot,” said Gill. “Gurvinder has been coaching me since U5 (under-five) so everything goes out to him. I play defence sometimes too … soccer and basketball I can’t choose which I like better.”
Minette added that he likes to deploy an ‘X’ formation with his five players – two wingers, a midfielder and two on defence. The purpose is to move the kids around and give them a taste of each position so the players can see which position they prefer moving forward. The players still jump at the chance to play in goal, though a couple have tried it and said it’s not for them. The time when there is a dedicated goalkeeper, and the rest of the team ducks for cover whenever the coach looks for someone to fill the net needs someone to play in net comes at a later age, the coach explained.
“They’re naturally starting to lean toward certain positions that are their favourite and it’s kind of interesting because as a coach you can figure out who your forwards are going to be in the future and your midfield and defence,” he said.
Gill and his forward ranks scored four times in a 4-1 win over YPR on June 6, a bit of revenge over their foes who beat them earlier in the season.
But it’s the small things that are key at these developmental age divisions, said the coach.
“It’s about the sportsmanship at this age and the camaraderie and at the end of the game, they go ‘Did you see me make that pass’ or ‘Did you see that kick I made, Ken?’ So it’s those little celebrations that are really important at this age,” said Minette.