The focus was squarely on fun at the Haines Junction Soccer Fest on May 26.
Ranging in age from five to 14, the 27 participants took part in games and activities during the one-day festival at St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction.
Organizer Cindi Cowie with the Haines Junction Soccer Club said Soccer Fest, developed and sponsored by Canada Soccer, is meant to present soccer in a fun, non-competitive environment for players.
“They’re trying to do this in all the different communities all over Canada,” said Cowie. “It can’t be competitive — it has to be grassroots. It’s not a championship or anything like that.”
This year was the fifth time the club has held the event, and Cowie said it has grown over time.
“Really when it started, we had maybe 15 kids and it’s grown,” said Cowie. “Last year I’m pretty sure we had 49 participants.”
Cowie said the downtick this year was due to a combination of factors.
Close to a dozen players from Haines Junction weren’t able to make it to the event due to other commitments and the contingent of players travelling from Whitehorse was also lower than usual.
Despite the turnout, Cowie said the feedback from players was positive.
“The kids said it was really fun. They really enjoyed having Callum (Weir) and Kaelen (Lewis), the two youth coaches,” said Cowie. “They know [Weir] in particular because he coaches them sometimes, so that was kind of fun.”
Joining Cowie, Weir and Lewis on the field were coaches Martin Jahr, John MacPhail and Derric Lewis.
MacPhail, executive director for the Yukon Soccer Association, said he’s been helping out with the event since the beginning.
“It’s a fantastic afternoon to work with kids and just put the fun back into soccer,” said MacPhail. “No instruction — just let the kids play.”
The event is a reflection of the growth of soccer in the community, something MacPhail credits to Cowie and Jahr.
“It’s fantastic,” said MacPhail. “The job they’re doing down there is fantastic. For the size of that community, it’s very, very well done.”
The Yukon Outdoor Championships are rapidly approaching from June 8 to 10.
Haines Junction will field a team of U11 girls coached by Jahr and a handful of other players will also compete, joining teams from Dawson City.
Soccer players in Haines Junction looking for more opportunities to play also won’t have to wait long as Jake and Malory Hanson are hosting a three-day camp from June 12 to 14 at St. Elias Community School. The cost is $50 per player and registration can be done at the camp on June 12.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org