If you’re a soccer mom or dad who spent the last weekend sheltering under an umbrella in a rain- soaked slicker as your child joined with their teammates to play a rousing game of soccer, you have Victoria’s temperate climate to thank.
British Columbia is the only province where the youth soccer season starts in September, the month when every other province’s youth soccer associations are holding their wind-up events.
“It can be a bit different for people who have come to B.C. from other parts of Canada where they are used to a summer soccer season,” admitted Karen Hood-Deshon, executive director of the Lower Island Soccer Association. “But it’s such a great game and such a great social environment, people don’t really mind if it gets a little wet out there at times. We’re fortunate to be able to play all winter long here.”
The season in Victoria begins in the early autumn and extends to April. Some league play, particularly the adults, play throughout the summer, and skill development camps and special summer leagues for children also operate in some areas.
But the bulk of the youth season is played in the fall and winter, when the odd rainy day in Victoria is pretty much inevitable. It does nothing, however, to dampen players’ spirits or their love of soccer.
“The weather is all part of the game, and it does nothing to dampen the spirits and enthusiasm of the kids and their parents. It’s just a great, active environment where the kids develop the physical literacy they need to lead an active lifestyle and the skills to they need to excel at this sport. At the same time, the parents and fans find a welcoming social environment where many make lifelong friends,” said Hood-Deshon.
She added the qualities of soccer, coupled with the relatively low cost of the sport for participants, combine to make soccer one of Victoria’s most successful youth sports. More than 8,000 children play the game on Vancouver Island, with more than 2,100 of them hailing from Victoria and Esquimalt.
“There are 10 local soccer associations on the Island, and the teams will all compete against one another in a coordinated schedule,” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, youth vice president of the Gorge Soccer Association.
“It’s a fantastic sport that provides great skill development and the opportunity for young people, from the little ones at the U13 age groups right up to the U18 players to meet kids from around the Island.”
Wynn-Williams added at the higher skill level premier and high performance leagues, young people have the opportunity to play against teams from outside B.C. in tournament and championship games.