Local soccer has kicked off in the some of the best end-of-summer weather this century.
Players from age four to over 50 are involved on three fronts: Hope Minor Soccer, Hope Secondary boys, and the men’s Valley Choppers team, which plays in the Chilliwack Men’s Recreational Soccer League.
Bruce Becker, president of Hope Minor Soccer, said on Monday that their association has approximately 150 players signed up for the fall session, which runs till Nov. 17.
“We had about 130 last fall,” said Becker, who is the principal of Silver Creek Elementary.
“This year we opened it up for Grade 8 and 9 players and we’ve picked up about 25 boys and girls from that. We moved a few Grade 7s up to join them and they play full field with all the rules. All the other groups play on smaller fields.
“Our kindergarten-Grade 1 group has 38 kids and four teams. The Grade 2-3-4 group has 45 kids and four teams and the 5-6-7 has 41 kids on four teams.”
In its infancy in the early 1980s, Hope Minor Soccer was playing second-fiddle to hockey, which had a few years head start. Despite a shrinking student population from those days, soccer has now surpassed local hockey registration — especially in the spring, where Becker believes the numbers could be pushing 200.
In the meantime, minor softball has fallen right off the map.
Becker thinks Hope Minor Soccer’s success comes from the simplicity of the product.
“We only play on Saturdays, all at Hope Secondary — and it’s really affordable. It’s only $40 at any level. It’s still competitive… but in a casual way.
“We have a lot of parents and Hope Secondary students helping out,” he added. “We even have a couple acting as co-vice presidents this year, Michelle and Brad Gazely. They organized the float in the Brigade Days parade and we won a trophy. I think there were about 12 adults and kids involved.
The Grade 8 and 9 boys have double-coverage, with Hope Secondary offering a team this fall, thanks to the coaching of local minister Andrew Tarrant. The squad has eight Grade 9s and nine Grade 8s.
“Seven of last year’s Grade 8s have stayed on and are forming a good solid core to the team,” said Tarrant on Tuesday. “Bruce Becker tells me the new Grade 8s are the best class of Hope Minor Soccer players for a while. I’m impressed by their ball control — and it’s easy to see how much the Grade 9s have come on from last year.
“As long as we throw in a couple of Slurpee runs on away-game trips we should be very fulfilled and contented, no matter the scores. I love the game, and I’m enjoying the coaching, but it’s really all about the opportunity to invest in the lads’ lives for me.”
The 8-9s will play in the Chilliwack league, said HSS athletics coordinator Alicia Dubois. She estimated that games would begin by the end of the month for both the junior and senior teams but she would know more after the Sept. 19 planning meeting in Surrey.
The senior boys have been hitting the field for three practices a week, coached by science teacher Geordie Webber. While Dubois said they currently qualify for single-A (small school) status, they have chosen to stay in the AA league, which could take them as far as Surrey.
“We’ve got 18 bodies and we’re a fairly young team,” said Webber on Monday. “There aren’t as many Grade 12s as I’d like but it’s a pretty committed group.
“Like most years, we’re starting out a bit raw — but we’ll improve with game experience.”
Their first game will come tomorrow (Thursday) at 6 p.m., in a friendly against the Chopper’s men’s team at HSS field.
Speaking of the field, Webber said, “It’s the best it’s looked in years. It’s good to see that they’ve kept watering it through the summer.”
Five of the senior Mustang players are also signed with the Valley Choppers, playing in the Chilliwack men’s league against some very talented players.
Yvon McKay, Nathan Polomark and Mason Madeiros were Choppers last season and are now joined by Karl Price and Matthew de Groot.
Valley Helicopters is the main sponsor of the squad, now entering its sixth campaign. The Choppers have shut their opponents out in the first halves of their first two games of the season — and held the always-strong Young Guns scoreless for 70 minutes last Saturday, before losing 1-0.
The Choppers face Old Settler at 2 p.m. this Saturday at Sardis Secondary field.