For anyone passing by Lakeside Park on the weekend, the sight of close to 1,000 soccer players and their parents running around the pitch may have come as a surprise.
But every year at the end of May, the Terry Walgren tournament brings together kids of all ages and skill levels to play soccer in Nelson.
The annual tournament had one of its biggest turnouts ever with more than 850 players and 50 teams registered to play over the three-day event.
“It was a great turnout, one of the biggest turnouts we have ever had. This is only the second year we have hosted the boys and girls divisions together, but based on last year we were up about eight teams,” said tournament organizer Lua Gerun.
From the littlest of children — whose jerseys are two sizes too big — which make up the U10 to U12 levels, to the teens playing U13 to U18, the chance to come to Nelson to take on some of the best teams from all around Central BC is a great opportunity.
“The tournament is an open-ended tournament. We try to invite teams from all across BC so it is an opportunity for the players from the Kootenays to play these good players and compete at a high level,” said Kootenay Regional Whitecaps Academy head coach Brett Adams.
Starting on Friday evening the first games took place in near perfect conditions.
On Saturday the Jamboree, which is what teams between U10 and U12 take part in, got underway with the first games of the day beginning bright and early at 7 a.m.
“The Jamboree is a no scores event, it’s all for fun, players get at least three games for the whole tournament. We host it so that they can have a fun weekend, so they can be part of the tournament,” said Gerun.
The last day of the tournament wrapped up on Sunday evening with finals in some divisions and the final games of round robin play for others.
Nelson’s U13 boy’s team finished the weekend in second place, just behind Kootenay South who took first. The U13 girls also took a silver medal, missing out on first to the Kelowna United.
“It was a good experience for the team, we got a range of experience in our games. They enjoyed playing on their local fields, they got to stay home and play games in front of their friends and family, so they enjoy that,” said U13 girls Selects head coach Rob Borhi.
The U14 boys representing Nelson came in third place in their division while the KEYSA Rovers-Risdon and Kootenay South took gold and silver respectively. Due to a lack of teams in their division, the U14 girls Selects team played up in the U16 division taking third place overall.
The U15 Selects girls also played the entire tournament against older competition up in the U16 division winning a gold medal and first place with a 3-1 record.
“The loss on Friday was a setback for us, but we kind of took that and played some really good soccer against some older girls,” said U15 girls Selects head coach Iain Harvey.
The final for the U15 boys was played in sopping wet conditions as the rain fell steadily almost the entire game. For the Selects, the game was a rematch of the semi finals where they took on the KEYSA Rovers.
The contest went into extra time, but was ended early with both teams taking first place in a 1-1 tie, due to an in-air collision between a Nelson and a Rovers’ player.
Challenging themselves by playing in a higher division, the U17 Selects boys team finished in second place overall, just behind the U18 men’s Nelson Selects team
The U18 men and U17 women Selects teams, the oldest age groups in the tournament, both took first place in their division.
“You learn something every game, I was really happy with the boys because they didn’t slack off, they played as hard as they could,” said U18 men’s Selects head coach Patrick Perkins on the team’s play.
“The boys kept pushing to try to get good goals and work hard and control the play — there were some really nice goals and possessions of play so I was really proud of them,” said Perkins.
The poor weather on Sunday afternoon made the U18 women’s final tricky as the ball skipped across the pitch, but the young U17 Selects girls team defeated their older opponents in the Salmon Arm Warriors 3-0.
“They played really well, we had a new goaltender playing for our team and she played really well. They are a pretty confident bunch,” said U17 girls Nelson Selects head coach Mike Gerun on the team’s play.
After a weekend packed to the brim with excitement and soccer at the Terry Walgren Tournament, the Nelson Selects soccer program found success with four gold, three silver, and two bronze medals.
“I have been doing this now for 12 or 13 years, coaching, and the organization from Nelson Youth Soccer is the best that I have seen. The tournament in my opinion was a huge success. It shows how a set of people can come together for the right reasons,” said Adams.