Youth indoor soccer in works

Joey Payeur

Amy Wilson-Hands isn’t about to let the icy grip of winter stop her ambitions to help create a rock-solid grassroots foundation for soccer here.
Those in Grades 6-9, looking for more opportunity to develop their skills, will get the chance to do so Sundays from 6-9 p.m. starting Sept. 14, when the first youth indoor soccer program takes place at Robert Moore School.
After having helped coach the inaugural U14 team here this past summer, Wilson-Hands talked with fellow coaches Caroline Spencer and Kevin Begin before deciding there was no time like the present to implement a new program, which hopefully will pay huge dividends down the road.
“It’s something I’ve been pondering for a while,” said Wilson-Hands, who got an in-depth look at the gap—though not a large one in her mind—between local youth players and those in Thunder Bay during the Thunder Bay Chill tourney the U14 squad participated in last month.
“I would say the foot skills and first touch abilities of the other teams was way above us,” she noted.
“But, in general, we were near them in terms of overall skills,” Wilson-Hands added.
“The scores didn’t really show the closeness of the games.
“Caroline talked before about how we want to get the kids up to the level that when they play for the Muskies one day, that they’re not just going to win NorWOSSA and get to OFSAA, but that they have a real shot of bringing home a championship,” she noted.
The format for the Sunday night program will depend on the numbers after registration takes place next Wednesday (Sept. 10) from 6-7 p.m. in the Memorial Sports Centre lobby.
“If we’re at the lower end for numbers, we will focus on practices to work on our skills and set up some exhibition games,” Wilson-Hands said.
“If the numbers are at the higher end, we’ll still practice,” she stressed.
“But with myself, Caroline, Kevin, and Alex Bruyere, who’s joining the program, we’ll also be able to set up a four-team league.”
Wilson-Hands already has been in touch with Lori Ann Shortreed of Emo Youth Soccer about attracting some players from west of town to join the fall/winter program.
And there’s a good chance some participants from International Falls also will be on hand.
U14 team members and Falls’ residents Edward and William Serrano have pledged to recruit fellow youth players from across the river.
“We’re looking at taking a maximum of 60 people and there won’t be an extra charge for any out-of-town players,” promised Wilson-Hands.
She also already has contacted youth soccer executives in Kenora about setting up some exhibition games at the brand-new indoor facility there.
As well, Wilson-Hands hopes to put together a team, comprised from girls playing in the fall/winter program, to play in the Borderland Women’s Indoor Soccer League this season.
The Sunday night time slot isn’t the most enticing on the calendar, but Wilson-Hands is doing what she can to make the best of an imperfect situation.
“There’s not enough gyms to run all the activities people want to run around here,” she noted.
“We were given the options of Friday or Sunday.
“I figured since many kids go out of town for [hockey] tournaments on Fridays, they’re usually back on Sunday, so that’s why I chose that day,” she explained.