Passion grows for ‘Beautiful Game’
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.
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.