Emphasis on fun, participation at junior soccer tourney

When more than 200 kids from schools in town and Alberton got together for a mini one-day tournament last week, the games took on a different outlook than most.
While tournaments normally stress winning, the annual junior soccer tournament here chose to highlight participation in a “fun atmosphere” for its grades four-six students.
There was both a boys’ and girls’ tournament, involving nine players on the field from each team.
“We try to de-emphasize the competitive nature of the game and have a learning environment where [the students] learn the game of soccer at the same time,” said Paul Fraser, one of the tournament’s organizers.
“And because we have student referees, we teach them to have respect for the officials,” he added. “Also, it gets the kids involved with kids from other schools.”
“We like to emphasize having fun for the players while not adding pressure on winning,” echoed Rick Wihnan of Alberton Central, co-ordinator of the tournament.
“Our philosophy has always stayed the same in that we don’t give out ribbons, trophies, or awards for most valuable players,” he noted. “Everyone is just out to have a good day and we try to complement their efforts.”
And their efforts have come a long way in recent years, said Wihnan, adding many of the players have improved their skills to the point where they have donned the black-and-gold colours of the Muskies.
“Soccer is a pretty popular sport around here, and the kids have some added incentive [to get better] and devote time in developing their skills so they can one day play for the Muskies,” he noted.
Struchan Gilson, head coach of the Muskie girls’ soccer team, said he’s grateful for these type of tournaments to introduce younger students to the sport. And he’s impressed with the skills the players have been taught before they reach high school.
“Well, what I’ve noticed is that, especially with the grade nines, that by the time they play soccer at the high school level, they’ve already had three or four years of soccer experience,” said Gilson.
“Their skills are so much better than they were before because they play mini soccer and stuff like that,” he added. “But we’ve had the tournament for years and it’s to good to see that they still keep it going.”