After two years of increased participation and regional success, the local under-12 competitive soccer program is returning for another season.
Tryouts are set to begin this Monday (May 10) at 5:30 p.m. and will run Monday evenings until May 31.
Coach Sarah Noonan said the program will be presented in the same way as in years past, culminating with a shot for players to move up to the regional level at an identification tournament in Thunder Bay in August.
“It’s pretty much the same format as the last two years,” she noted. “It’s an under-12 [squad] so it’s an eight-on-eight format.
“The teams are smaller and we play on a bit smaller field.”
Because of the way the numbers have worked out, tryouts essentially have been extra training time in past seasons as neither the boys’ nor girls’ team rounded out the 16-player roster in the last two years.
The teams practice once a week while school is in session, then bump up to twice a week during the summer months.
“In the past, I didn’t have to make any cuts because every kid that was interested I had a spot for,” Noonan explained.
“We still say tryouts, just because we are looking at building a competitive program, and with this being the third year, people are aware of it.
“Maybe some of those under-12s are looking forward to doing the program,” she continued.
“I can keep a maximum of 16 boys and 16 girls, so I’m hoping to get my full numbers, at least, this year,” Noonan remarked.
The goal of the program is to provide some opportunities for the town’s elite players, which isn’t possible playing in the Fort Frances Youth Soccer Association alone.
The program is the first of many stepping stones that leads as high as the national program.
“If you keep going all the way up, they can then make the provincial team, and then make the national team,” Noonan explained.
“Ontario Soccer has created this tiered system where a kid could go through district, regional, provincial, and right to the national team.”
Noonan said the local U-12 soccer is a building program for the regional team, which is based in Thunder Bay.
“Over the last two years, we’ve had both boys and girls participate in that program,” she noted.
Noonan also stressed the program opens up opportunities that weren’t available to local players before.
“In the past, it’s always been Thunder Bay kids making the [regional] team,” she recalled.
“By introducing this district program, it’s giving kids from Fort Frances, Dryden, Kenora, and Thunder Bay all a chance to make that team.”
The players’ hard work culminates at the identification camp in Thunder Bay in August (the exact date has yet to be determined).
Two players from here were selected in 2008 and six last year.
“At identification weekend, all the coaches get together and we basically select the top kids to be invited into that regional program,” said Noonan.
Once into the regional division, players train for the next year—working for the opportunity to compete for positions on the provincial team.
“They have different phases of the regional program,” Noonan explained. “They [the local players] were all invited to that first phase and then I think they all made it to the second phase.
“But the boys didn’t make it any further than that. The girls all made it into the third phase,” she noted.
“Each of the regions in Ontario is represented there [at the provincial tournament], so if they make it through all three phases, they get to go to that big tournament.”
The fee for the tryouts is $90—a drop from $150 last season.
Noonan plans to scout for players at the St. Francis Sports Fields on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and also is available at 274-1521 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
“If parents have any questions or if they see me around the field, they can feel free to come up and ask me any questions,” she said.