This spring, there will be no kid in Hope who can honestly say, “There’s nothing to do.”
In addition to self-made fun with friends and the programs at the local rec centre, there are now three organized sports… where there was previously only one.
Saturday soccer was the only game in town when Hope Minor Softball shut down in 2008 — but now minor ball is surging back to life, along with the Steve Nash Youth Basketball Program.
At the core of all three kids’ sports groups is a committed group of parents, youth and other citizens who have volunteered their time and skills to help make a difference in the lives of the next generation.
“We’ve got 41 kids signed up — and 24 volunteers,” said Jeff Kuhn, local organizer for the Steve Nash program. “I feel really fortunate, as you’re only as good as your volunteers and we’ve got some real good ones.”
Bruce Becker, long-time president of Hope Minor Soccer, mirrored Kuhn’s sentiments.
“The league is run by volunteers and without them there would not be a soccer league in Hope. They also allow the costs to be quite low. Their help is very much appreciated!”
Tammy Shields, president of Hope Minor Softball, has brought together a six-member executive for the club’s second year of reformation. She would be happy to have even more coaches on-board, though.
The Steve Nash program is in its second year, showing slight growth in the girls’ registration — from 14 to 17 — but a big jump from 13 to 27 in the boys’ divisions.
“We had a large group of Grade 7 girls last year and this year, there are only two,” said Kuhn. “The majority of our girls are from Grade 4 and 5.”
Fourteen boys from Grade 4 and 5 use the Coquihalla school gym on Mondays and Thursdays, while the girls and the Grade 6 and 7 boys use the Hope Secondary gym on those nights.
“On Monday, we assessed kids for placing them on teams,” added Kuhn. “Mondays will be practice nights and Thursdays will be game nights. I’m happy with our numbers, as it gives us two teams in each group, with subs coming in.”
Among his 24 volunteers, Kuhn has 11 high school students. “It’s good experience for them,” he said.
Hope Minor Soccer kicks off their spring season this Saturday, with 130 players from kindergarten to Grade 10. Mini-field nets get set up at 8 a.m. for the younger groups to work with in the morning and the Grade 8-10s play full field from 12:15 to 1:30.
“We have about 18 coaches,“ said Becker, the principal of Silver Creek Elementary. “A few have been helping out for many years and take on more than one team. Some of the long-time coaches are Geoff Birch, Rob Tiessen, Larry Green, Kevin Chisholm, Mike Crane, Les McAllister, and Mike Lancaster.
“We also have two talented and dedicated high school students, Amanda Lancaster and Blake Deschenes, who coach as well.”
After the great response to last summer’s Learn to Play softball program, Shields said she didn’t know what the numbers would be like when they moved to the spring season this year — but a few hours before opening night this Tuesday, she thought there would be about 80 players from age four to U-14.
“We’ve got two mini-mite teams, two mites, a U-11 and a U-14,” said Shields. “The mini-mites will start with T-ball, then move to integrating a pitched ball by a coach.
“We’ve got more boys than girls. Probably a 60-40 ratio… maybe even 70-30, and Softball BC is interested in supporting us because of the number of boys involved. In our district of Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Langley, softball isn’t really big, as far as boys go.”
Gerry Dyson, who grew up in Hope, and his wife Sue are driving up regularly from Chilliwack to share their extensive knowledge in the sport — and Hope Minor Ball is hosting a coaching and skills clinic by George Morneau, father of major league first baseman Justin Morneau. The clinics take place on Saturday, April 12, so anyone wanting to help coach should be in attendance.
Shields can be reached at 604-869-1634.