Fastest grow­ing sport

As­sis­tant prin­ci­pal trans­plants love for the game from Burin Penin­sula


“It’s the fastest grow­ing sport in New­found­land, it’s the fastest grow­ing sport in Canada, and of course, it’s the fastest-grow­ing sport in the world, it’s the most pop­u­lar sport in the world.”

Robert Tar­rant’s soc­cer roots run deep, thanks to an up­bring­ing in an area of New­found­land whose soc­cer cul­ture runs back to the beginning of the 20th cen­tury.

When Tar­rant, the as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal at North River’s All Hal­lows Ele­men­tary School, moved to North River from the Burin Penin­sula, he found him­self miss­ing that area’s rich soc­cer cul­ture.

“ Ev­ery com­mu­nity there has a soc­cer team, no mat­ter how big or how small. So there was al­ways a strong pres­ence. That was part of our cul­ture, re­ally. Grow­ing up as chil­dren, we played soc­cer in the mead­ows, and on the fields, when­ever we had any spare time. That was the cul­ture. Every­one did it.”

Tar­rant says the strong Scot­tish and Ir­ish her­itage in the area laid the foun­da­tion. Scot­tish forestry work­ers and post-Sec­ond World War set­tlers brought a love for the game with them, he says, lead­ing to the for­ma­tion of the Burin Penin­sula soc­cer league and the pro­vin­cial Premier Cup com­pe­ti­tion, but the ori­gins of the game there go back even far­ther, to what he be­lieves is the first soc­cer game played in New­found­land. In 1901, a team from St. Lawrence took on a group of Por­tuguese sailors - with the New- found­lan­ders winning 2-1.

Tar­rant’s own fa­ther, Isadore, is a mem­ber of the Burin Penin­sula’s soc­cer hall of fame as a builder.

“ When I moved away from there, I missed it. It was so much part of your life,” he said. Be­cause of the soft­ball field lo­cated next to the school, Tar­rant at­tempted to get a soft­ball recre­ation pro­gram off the ground seven years ago, but there was very lit­tle in­ter­est. A cou­ple of years af­ter that, he won­dered if it would be pos­si­ble to re­pur­pose the field for soc­cer.

“ The first sum­mer I tried it, we had 60 kids. And then, we ran a win­ter pro­gram that win­ter, and by the next year, we had 250 kids.”

All Hal­lows stu­dent Erin Mackey, 12, says when she first saw soc­cer on tele­vi­sion a few years ago, she thought it looked like a lot of fun. It’s now her favourite sport.

“ I love it. It’s awe­some,” she said. “ It’s a great way to hang out with your friends and it’s re­ally good ex­er­cise and all our teach­ers, they’re so gen­er­ous with us. They give up their time to help us. It’s re­ally great.”

Tar­rant says in just a few short years, a soc­cer cul­ture has taken hold of lo­cal chil­dren. “ The kids loved it so much that lunch hours, for ex­am­ple, the kids are out play­ing soc­cer,” he said, not­ing that even the rel­a­tively warmer win­ter weather al­lowed chil­dren this past year to play soc­cer out­doors into Jan­uary. Organized pro­grams give lo­cal chil­dren the chance to play al­most year-round, and Tar­rant says the game’s in­ex­pen­sive­ness and strong health ben­e­fits make it an at­trac­tive choice for par­ents who want their chil­dren to be ac­tive.

“Soc­cer is a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive game to play. All you need is a ball, and a set of cleats and shin guards, and it doesn’t cost very much,” he said. “ Soc­cer’s the best car­dio­vas­cu­lar sport you can play. ... You got a game that’s 90 min­utes long, most of the team are on the field for 90 min­utes. You’ve got to as­pire to high lev­els of fit­ness to be a good soc­cer player.” Tar­rant’s also of the opin­ion that soc­cer re­quires more teamwork than some other team sports, like hockey.

Phillip Mercer, phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher at All Hal­lows, said the sport is an ex­cel­lent way to pro­mote fit­ness, and the kids seem to love it.

“ We al­ways get kids ask­ing (in class), ‘ Sir, can we have a game of soc­cer?’ We try to oblige when­ever we can,” he said. “It’s a great pro­gram.”

Last year, the soc­cer pro­gram pro­vided ac­tiv­ity for al­most 230 kids, whose ages range from three to 14, with all the teams with chil­dren aged eight and up tak­ing part in pro­vin­cial tour­na­ments.

With the soc­cer pro­gram en­ter­ing its fourth full sea­son, Tar­rant says they’re start­ing to see younger sib­lings of orig­i­nal play­ers want­ing to take part in the same sport their older broth­ers and sis­ters are play­ing.

“ We’re get­ting three-year-olds whose broth­ers played on our un­der-10 and un­der12 teams,” he said. “And they’ve gone to the games and watched the games and they want to play them­selves.”

Tar­rant said the en­thu­si­asm of lo­cal kids for the sport is “ un­be­liev­able,” and he’s watched the kids de­velop over the past four teams into squads ca­pa­ble of winning pro­vin­cial ti­tles, as the CBN Light­ning Un­der-14 team did this year.

Tar­rant said the soc­cer pro­grams build skills as well as pro­vide an ath­letic out­let for chil­dren, and the coaches in the pro­gram are tak­ing cour­ses to earn their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as well, all of which helps keep the pop­u­lar­ity of the sport grow­ing.

“ It’s the fastest grow­ing sport in New­found­land, it’s the fastest grow­ing sport in Canada, and of course, it’s the fastest-grow­ing sport in the world, it’s the most pop­u­lar sport in the world,” said Tar­rant.

And the soc­cer play­ers in Con­cep­tion Bay North are aware of the sport’s global po­si­tion: lo­cal kids are spon­sor­ing a soc­cer team in Ghana in Africa. “ That’s been a re­ally pos­i­tive thing for us as well, and it’s nice for our kids to see that part of it,” he said. “ We’re play­ing here, and it’s fun for th­ese kids over there, but

“We’re get­ting three-year-olds whose broth­ers played on our un­der-10 and un­der-12 teams. And

they’ve gone to the games and watched the games and they want

to play them­selves.”

— Robert Tar­rant, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal, North River’s All Hal­lows Ele­men­tary School

it’s also a way for some of them, even­tu­ally, to maybe be­come pro­fes­sional or semi-pro­fes­sional play­ers as a way of liv­ing.”

For lo­cal play­ers, Tar­rant has a sim­pler - yet more cru­cial - goal: to help fight against ris­ing lev­els of child­hood obe­sity. He said it’s “scary” to read stud­ies that sug­gest to­day’s chil­dren might not out­live their par­ents.

“ I cer­tainly would en­cour­age par­ents to get their kids in­volved in soc­cer pro­grams or other phys­i­cal fit­ness pro­grams, so that we can re­verse that trend. Be­cause if things con­tinue to go the way they’re go­ing, and kids spend so much more time play­ing video games than they do play­ing other sports, I think we’re go­ing to see a lot of that be­come a re­al­ity in the fu­ture.”

And as kids get in­volved, so do their par­ents; Tar­rant had high praise for the vol­un­teers who keep the pro­gram run­ning.

“ The par­ent-vol­un­teers ... make it pos­si­ble in or­der for th­ese types of pro­grams to hap­pen,” he said, “ be­cause if it wasn’t for the par­ent-coaches and other peo­ple who vol­un­teer to help out with fundrais­ing and so on, it cer­tainly wouldn’t be pos­si­ble for th­ese pro­grams to run.”

Pho­tos by Daniel MacEachern/The Com­pass Robert Tar­rant, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal of All Hal­lows Ele­men­tary School and or­ga­nizer of a lo­cal soc­cer pro­gram with more than 200 stu­dents, drib­bles a soc­cer ball in the school gym.

BAN­TAM B ROVERS - The Bay Arena Ban­tam B Rovers won Gold at their in­vi­ta­tional tour­na­ment held at the Bay Arena Jan. 15-17. Bay Arena tripled Fogo Is­land Hawks 12-4 in the cham­pi­onship match. Mem­bers of the winning team are, front row: Kel­land Mercer, goalie Cody Pot­tle, Michael Critch, Tay­lor Nor­man, Ja­cob Pol­lett, Jared Pet­ten, cap­tain, and Randy Clarke, goalie. Back row: Keith Mercer, as­sis­tant coach; Jor­dan Lid­ster, William Hayes ( A), Kyle Mug­ford, Joshua O’Leary, Matthew Mug­ford, Scott Mercer, James Keefe (A), Bradley Bar­rett (A), Evan Oates, Noah Bartlett, Dave Pol­lett, trainer and Sean Bartlett, coach.

GOLD BOYS - Mem­bers of the Holy Redeemer boys gold medal-winning volleyball team are, front row, from left: Damion Janes, Ni­cholas Sut­ton, Aaron Smith, Ni­cholas Clarke, Macken­zie Dob­bin, and Austin Roberts. Back row: Brit­tany Roberts, Matthew Mercer, Ni­cholas Dawe, Ni­cholas Roberts, Matthew Coombs, Lu­cas Roberts, Jonathon Roberts, Ryan Glavine, and Terri-Lynn Hur­ley, coach.

GOLD GIRLS - Mem­bers of the Holy Redeemer Girls gold medal winning volleyball team are, front row, from left: Han­nah Smith, Re­becca Gosse, Cassidy Mercer and Jor­dyn Davis. Back Row: as­sis­tant coach, Danny Smith, Kelsey Smith, Caitlin Pike, Toni Nose­wor­thy, Jay­den Fitzger­ald, April Squires, and Deanne Deer­ing, coach.

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