By Pat Payton
St. Marys Minor Soccer Association president Nathan Brown wants to grow the sport in town.
The coronavirus pandemic has obviously put up roadblocks for the 2020 season, but Brown and the SMSA executive are hoping that they can still salvage a reduced program once restrictions are lifted. Currently, Ontario Soccer has put a delay on starting any programming until July 1.
“Because our house league normally finishes on July 15, if things opened up, it would only be a two-week season,” Brown said in a recent interview with the Independent.
“For the rest of the travel teams, there’s three ways I look at it. No. 1 is the safety of the kids. No. 2, it puts a lot of pressure on our coaches to make sure physical distancing is adhered to. It also puts pressure on our referees.”
Brown says the association had hoped to put together a referees training program, prior to the start of this season. “We had scheduled one for March 23, but it obviously didn’t happen and was cancelled.”
In the meantime, Brown and executive member MaryJane Littlejohn have been posting videos on the St. Marys minor soccer facebook page.
“It’s to try and at least keep the kids active, get them outside and continue to play the game of soccer,” he says. “While we don’t have games, if restrictions are lifted, we’re going to try and do things ‘in house’ in St. Marys. We would put together soccer programs.”
Minor soccer is also trying to obtain grant money to train coaches and referees, the president says.
“We will try to use this late summer and early fall to train our coaches and referees more effectively by holding small groups, whatever is allowed by law. Whether it’s a 4-on-4 match in September, where we’re training coaches how to deal with substitutions and training referees on a smaller playing field. That type of thing. It would be a pay-as-you-go program.”
Letters sent to families
Recently, St. Marys minor soccer sent letters to the families who registered their children for the 2020 season.
“To ensure the safety of our community, and the need to abide by social distancing rules, St. Marys Minor Soccer has made the difficult decision to cancel the program for 2020,” the letter stated.
“Soccer fields and parks in St. Marys have reopened and small groups (five or less) are able to start enjoying the weather, practice some soccer and maintain fitness levels, while physically distancing. However, according to Ontario Soccer, these practices cannot be organized by any club.”
All player registration fees paid are being refunded to each player/family. “Volunteers are touching base with each of these age groups,” Brown says.
A total of 214 players had signed up to play minor soccer this summer, he noted.
Stay positive is the message
The president says the message he wants to get out to people is to stay positive.
“The executives for minor soccer are going to do what we can,” Brown said. “We want to keep the kids going through the summer doing drills with family. Our goal is to grow the game locally. We see an opportunity to help drive soccer; it’s always been a passion of mine as well as all of our executives.”
Note: Minor soccer registration for 2021 will take place in November.
By Pat Payton