After local teams spent some time touring the province over the summer, the Woolwich Youth Soccer Club is hosting its very own tournament, and this year’s is going to be the biggest yet.
Nearly 100 teams will be flooding area soccer pitches this weekend for the annual Woolwich Invitational Tournament. There will be games going in St. Jacobs, Elmira and St. Clements on Saturday and Sunday, and anyone is welcome to come watch.
Tak Shibayama, a member of the Woolwich Youth Soccer Club board, is the first-time co-chair of the tournament. He says it is great that Woolwich will be playing host to so many teams, some from as far away as Sudbury.
“It is definitely a fun experience for all the players involved,” he said. “I was always on the player side of things, so I remember tournaments like this are just a good bonding experience with the team. Even the parents can get to know each other. Sometimes you play on a team and you don’t really know your teammates, but tournaments have a way of breaking that barrier down.”
The Woolwich Wolfpack has already spent a few weekends dominating tournaments and winning games around the province, as far as Ottawa, and now, they will be defending their titles at home.
The games start up on Saturday morning, bright and early at 8 a.m. Other games start at 9 a.m., and run all day until Sunday evening. There are some new restrictions placed on younger players, this year, however, says Shibayama.
“The U9 to U12, because they are considered to be long term development leagues, they don’t count the score, and they are only allowed to play two games a day. We put those on the Saturday,” he said. “On the Sunday, we have the U13 and up and they are allowed to play more than two games. It is new and I think it was implemented last year. I think it has something to do with the level of play, but it just makes things more difficult on the administrative side of things.”
To make up for fewer games played, some teams are trying to figure out ways to set up exhibition games at other times on the weekend.
After organizing his very first Woolwich Invitational, Shibayama says he has a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into creating and putting on an event like this.
“I used to just kick a ball around,” he said with a laugh. “I can say that I have a much more profound respect for the people organizing these tournaments. I didn’t know there was so much work involved and with so many people for just two days of soccer.”
Although the first goal hasn’t even been scored at this year’s tournament yet, Shibayama says he already has a few ideas for next year, maybe to make the job of organizing the event a bit easier to handle.
“We have a lot of teams that are coming in locally, and we have some divisions that are just playing teams from their regular season leagues,” he said. “I think what we need to do next year is to start advertising to more clubs that aren’t local, and send them a bit earlier – get some new faces.”
With one final message, Shibayama is getting ready for that first face off on Saturday morning.
“The organizers and volunteers do so much work. It is a big team effort. There are so many volunteers and we want to give them a big thank you,” he said.
To view the full tournament schedule, visit the WYS website at www.woolwichyouthsoccer.com.