There is snow on the ground and the temperature is dipping below zero, but Woolwich Youth Soccer players are still hitting the pitch.
Starting this month and for the first time in club history, Wolf Pack players from both the traveling rep and house league teams can brush the dust off their cleats and hone their skills before the start of the regular season in May.
Steve Sider, president of the club’s board, says the idea is to keep the kids’ heads in the game even though it isn’t soccer season. Every Saturday morning until the end of April, Wolf Pack players will be taking to the turf at Max’s Golf Centre in St. Jacobs.
“The first Saturday of every month, our house league players can come and participate in what we are calling the fundamentals program. It gives them the opportunity to develop basic skills like dribbling, passing, shooting and defending,” he said, adding that the house league clinics also give leadership opportunities to senior rep players. “They work with a number of coaches as well as some of our senior players coming in. It is really exciting because it gives boys and girls who are 15 or 16 years of age a chance to serve as mentors.”
Rep players have the same chance to brush up on their soccer skills on the third Saturday morning of every month, perfecting skills and building on the basics of the game. The first and fourth Saturdays, the program takes on a bit of a different format.
“It is open scrimmage time,” said Sider. “It gives them a chance to keep touching the balls and passing without specific work on their individual skills. The idea is to keep them thinking about soccer and giving them a chance once a week to keep up.”
The board sees the new weekly program as putting Woolwich players on an even playing field with other clubs around the region.
“We are a smaller centre compared to Waterloo and Kitchener,” said Sider. “They run programs all year round. Our goal is to give those kids who want to play soccer in the summer, whether it is house league or rep, extra touches on the ball and keep them in playing shape – giving them something to look forward to when spring finally rolls around.”
The program is free of charge for registered Woolwich Wolf Pack players, a big difference compared to other conditioning and practice programs from other soccer clubs.
“Other centres run the same kind of thing and may charge $100 or $200,” explained Sider. “It is a way for our club to say that we really value our young people in the community and to help build their soccer skills. We are really excited about it.”
The first meeting was Jan. 9 for the house league players, and is currently being run only for players that have already registered for the upcoming season. However, Sider says that if a kid wants to come and watch a practice before registering, they are more than welcome to sit on the sidelines and observe.
“It is about getting the word out,” he said. “It may be minus-20 outside, but hopefully summer is on its way.”
Registration for soccer teams opened on Jan. 1, and can be accessed online. For more information about the winter programs in St. Jacobs, or to learn more about the Woolwich Youth Soccer Club, visit their website at www.woolwichyouthsoccer.com.