Pas­sion grows for ‘Beau­ti­ful Game’

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Grow­ing up in Burin, CBN Light­ning coach Richard Mar­shall knows a thing or two about soc­cer and pas­sion.

The Burin re­gion is a hub for The Beau­ti­ful Game in this prov­ince. The St. Lawrence Lau­ren­tians and their fans are renowned for their ra­bid love for soc­cer.

If you talk to soc­cer peo­ple who have trav­elled to the re­gion for a game and they’ll tell you that the pas­sion for the game is un­par­al­leled. CBN mi­nor soc­cer of­fi­cial Don Coombs once noted, “even their grand­moth­ers had their face painted.”

Af­ter spend­ing the past cou­ple of years coach­ing teams in Bay Roberts, Mar­shall sees that same pas­sion sprout­ing amongst the pop­u­lace in this re­gion.

“I see similarities grow­ing for sure,” he said. “I see there is a sim­i­lar pas­sion for soc­cer grow­ing.”

Soc­cer, or foot­ball as its known on the other side of the At­lantic and the south­ern Amer­i­cas, is per­haps the most popular mi­nor sport in the Con­cep­tion Bay North re­gion.

With more than 600 ath­letes in ma­jor as­so­ci­a­tions in Bay Roberts and Har­bour Grace, the sport ri­vals mi­nor hockey for the largest mi­nor sports pro­gram in the re­gion.

That does not count ath­letes far­ther up the north shore of Con­cep­tion Bay, Trinity South and Pla­cen­tia. The game is strong in those ar­eas and con­tin­ues to flour­ish.

“Pre­vi­ously this re­gion was sim­ply not known as a soc­cer hub. There was al­ways soc­cer here, but it wasn’t al­ways known as a hot­bed,” said Mar­shall. “Now, it’s very much in­grained. It’s be­come a regular source of sports ac­tiv­ity.”

Now, there have been suc­cess­ful pro­grams in the past from this area with nu­mer­ous pro­vin­cial and high school ti­tles brought home, but the sheer num­bers of chil­dren play­ing the game is per­haps un­ri­valled.

“I think soc­cer is grow­ing,” said Coombs.

A healthy sport

Soc­cer is a sport that does not give its ath­letes much time to rest.

It is a game of car­dio­vas­cu­lar strength and stamina. Some stud­ies sug­gest that play­ers run an av­er­age of 11 kilo­me­tres (seven miles) per game.

Young play­ers are con­stantly mov­ing dur­ing prac­tices, whether just kick­ing the ball around or run­ning through a se­ries of py­lon drills, there is nary a mo­ment where they are stand­ing still.

“It is a good sport for healthy living,” said Coombs. “I’m glad to see it grow­ing.”

Keep­ing them in the game

At the younger ages, there is plenty for play­ers to take ad­van­tage of. There are var­i­ous leagues, tour­na­ments and ex­cur­sions to go on, that in­cludes house leagues and the like.

But, once play­ers reach the age of 16, there tends to be a drop off in en­roll­ment. At that age it can be tough to choose be­tween the al­lure of earn­ing a buck or play­ing a game of soc­cer.

“How do we keep them in the game?,” said Coombs.

Ac­cord­ing to Coombs, that is where of­fi­cials should fo­cus some of their ef­forts.

Both as­so­ci­a­tions in CBN have ex­cel­lent fa­cil­i­ties to help pro­mote the game. The other ar­eas have sim­i­lar pitches and there are plans to have a new field in Spa­niard’s Bay some­time in the fu­ture.

There have been talks of pos­si­bly host­ing a Chal­lenge Cup game in the area and there are mul­ti­ple teams play­ing in var­i­ous metro leagues in and around St. John’s.

There is def­i­nite in­ter­est for the sport here. Now, you can see the pas­sion grow­ing by leaps and bounds.

“If that’s there, it is an ex­cel­lence in­di­ca­tor that soc­cer is here to stay,” said Mar­shall.

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COMPASS

A group of fe­male soc­cer play­ers get their kicks in dur­ing a re­cent prac­tice on the St. Fran­cis pitch in Har­bour Grace. They are, from left, Rachel Snow, Mack­aila Jensen, Ha­ley Mae Dawe, Kira Legge, Cassie Drover and Hannah Cole.

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