Softball bats have been silent for a few years now in Hope, with no local leagues for kids or adults to play a game that used to be huge in this town, 20 or 30 years ago.
But, where one sport has struck out, another has seen continued success. Hope Minor Soccer got started in about 1980 and has offered families an affordable and simple sporting option ever since. The association now offers the sport to kids from kindergarten to Grade 9 — and they have 190 registrants this spring, down a few from the record of 200 a few years ago.
What’s the secret to their success?
“I’d say it’s because it’s affordable,” said president Bruce Becker on Monday. “It’s only 40 dollars for the spring or fall season — 60 if you sign up for both.
“It’s also only once a week, on Saturday mornings,” he added. “That leaves the rest of Saturday and Sunday and weekday evenings free for other activities.” Becker, who is principal of Silver Creek Elementary, said the registration numbers are well-distributed through the age groups.
“The kindergarten-Grade 1s have 52 players and the Grade 2-3-4s and five-six-sevens are in the upper 50s and the Grade 8-9s have about 30,” said Becker. “It’s about 50-50 boys and girls in the younger groups but it gets more boy-heavy in the older groups.”
Parent involvement is crucial, with each team having parents act as coaches and referees.
“We also have about eight Hope secondary students and former minor soccer players helping out,” added Becker. With the move to include Grade 8 and 9 students this year, the Saturday league is helping develop players for the secondary school leagues. Several Grade 8-9 players were playing for the senior Mustang girls, who concluded their season on Tuesday.
The Mustangs had three home games in the span of a week to finish the year. They were soundly schooled by the visiting teams, which were basically adjuncts of large community-based clubs. The Hope girls worked hard, especially on defense, but were unable to maintain possession and use the ball productively on offense. Grade 12 midfielder Jamie Peters was rewarded for her tenaciousness with a goal on a high lob across the box, versus Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham last week. That was Hope’s only goal in the three games. The Mustangs will be graduating Peters, Betsy Kopola-Hoshowski, Sydney Pellegrino, Mina Kim and Alex Sauvé — but the last games had signs of hope for next year’s team, especially in net. Grade 9 defender Erica McAllister got her first start in goal on Monday versus St. Jean Brébeuf of Abbotsford. She was understandably tentative on closing the gap on loose balls in the first half but she took coach Jeremy Smith’s instructions to heart and she and her teammates kept the visitors off the score sheet in the second half.
By Tuesday’s game against MEI, McAllister was moving up and confidently challenging attackers, showing good hands in stopping shots. Coach Smith said a big challenge for the girls this season was getting to play as a team.
“They had a year off last year (due to the teachers’ job action), so they had to get to know each other. We also had some brand new players, so they had to learn the basics. Some could hardly kick the ball, to start with.
“It’s definitely coming together, though,” he added. “We’ve got the defense working and the goal kicks.”
The final sport of the school year for HSS is track and field. Coach Jason Fisher is currently preparing the team for the Fraser Valley regional meet, which leads to the B.C. provincial championships.