Soccer and St. Lawrence go together like a foot to a cleat.
When adults in the Placentia area decided to start a soccer program several years ago, Gord Pike was one of the first people to take up the cause.
A native of St. Lawrence and a former senior soccer player in this province, Mr. Pike is principal of St. Anne’s Academy in Dunville.
One of the first things the group did was convert the slow-pitch field in Dunville into a soccer pitch.
It’s where all practices and games are held but Mr. Pike says by later this summer the field at the new Laval High School in Placentia will be ready for use.
Mr. Pike says the program has grown to include about 120 children and youth from age three to eighteen and a Placentia and Area Minor Soccer Association was recently formed.
Volunteers with the association won’t be on the field coaching or playing, rather will work behind the scenes to organize a coaching clinic, secure uniforms, and to communicate with the town and organizations that have come onboard to help with the soccer program.
“This will allow our coaches to coach and not be involved with the other things we need to do,” Mr. Pike said.
One difference between the Placentia and area soccer program and many others throughout the province is that in Placentia all coaches are adults rather than students or summer work-term students.
“Most of our adult volunteers are inexperienced and that’s why we are trying to get a coaching clinic in our area,” Mr. Pike said.
Mr. Pike said it’s thanks to the Town of Placentia and the Placentia Lions Club that the program has been doing so well. Both the town and the Lions have been supporting the program since its inception, he said.
“The Lions gave us 100 uniforms several years ago. They are after giving us money for equipment. They did a study to see where our field should go. And you can talk to any organization in this community and the Lions Club seems to be behind it.”
The Town of Placentia keeps the field mowed and limed. There’s great cooperation between the volunteers and the town officials, Mr. Pike said.
The program is not only accessible but also affordable to all children and youth in the area.
Membership fees are $40 per child or $60 per family.
The money helps send the players out of the area to an all-Newfoundland tournament each summer.
While the players are encouraged to wear soccer cleats, sneakers are also acceptable, Mr. Pike said.
The players should also have guards to protect their chins.
“We’re also asking parents who have cleats in their homes that their children are no longer using to donate them to us,” Mr. Pike said.
Mr. Pike supports the program not only because it’s a great way to learn about team spirit but also because of the benefits it brings in helping children and youth become physically fit.
According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research, obesity is closely related to higher rates of like osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Information on the centre’s website notes that rates of obesity and overweight are increasing for youth in this province and are, along with adult rates, the highest among the Canadian provinces.
“This is all about getting our kids out and getting them running. It’s all about participating in a program where fitness and fun are the priorities,” Mr. Pike said.
Mr. Pike encourages parents to bring their children out to the field and watch a practice if they aren’t already involved.
“The easy thing is to stay home but we’d like to see parents bring the kids out so they can get an appreciation for physical activity.”
Mr. John Seay said the momentum for the sport has grown over the years.
As he puts it, the only skill you need to play soccer is to be a decent runner.
“And if you can’t run really well, if you stand in the middle of the field, the ball will eventually come to you,” he said.
There are several coaches, both male and female, for every age group, he said.
“This speaks highly about leadership. If you got one or two persons who are interested in leading, a lot of people are ready to follow. And that’s what Gord and several other people did - they led the way and many followed.”
For more information on the program call Mr. Pike at 709 227 2473. Information on practice days and times will also be posted on St. Anne’s Academy website.