Nelson Youth Soccer has made a name for itself across the province in the last few years with solid talent coming out of such a small locale. Starting Thursday, seven Nelson Selects teams will have a chance to show why.
Last month the local association qualified seven of eight teams as the Provincial B Cup representative for the Columbia Kootenay region of BC. Action gets underway in Prince George for four boys teams and in West Vancouver for the three girls teams.
“We tend to be the strongest association in the Kootenays so we generally send more teams than others, but this is a pretty good showing by Nelson,” said Nelson Youth Soccer president Chuck Bennett.
Nelson has long been the soccer town of the Kootenays. Communities like Trail, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Creston and Invermere don’t match the city when it comes to play on the pitch. With the addition of an indoor facility and the recent partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps, that dominance has been cemented.
With that reputation comes more expectation.
“I think we are transitioning from an association that is just happy to be sending teams to the provincials, to an association where the teams are expected to be challenging for medals,” said Bennett.
And even though Nelson will be matching up against teams with much larger populations — Kelowna, Vernon, Chilliwack, Langley — it’s not the size that matters.
“I wouldn’t say we enter the provincials as underdogs anymore,” said Bennett. “We are in the mix and we know our teams can be successful. I’m not sure if anybody is expecting us to win it all, but we will be in there.”
On the girls’ side the Selects will be involved in the U14, U15 and U16 divisions. Last season the U15s (then playing U14) came away with a silver medal. They were the only team of the six Nelson sent that returned with a medal. Once again the team coached by Pat Perkins and Paul Burkart is expected to challenge for a provincial title.
On the boys’ side the Selects will be involved in U13, U14, U16 and U17. All four teams will face very talented squads from across the province. Bennett expects the U17 team to have the best shot at coming home provincial champions.
“I think if the teams win their first game of the tournament, then they all have a pretty good chance to get into the medals,” said Bennett.
Patience has been key to Nelson’s success. The overall philosophy of the association is to play a possession game which can be more difficult to teach to younger athletes. Many teams employ the kick-and-run game which has an upside, but is not considered a style that suits developing solid players.
“That is sometimes challenging when you are trying to score goals fast,” said Bennett. “But it’s the way to play at the higher level.”
Each team plays three round robin games at which point the top two teams challenge for the gold medal. Round robin play goes Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the medal round playing out Sunday.
The Nelson Star will be following all seven teams along the way. You can get instant game scores by following us on Twitter (@NelsonStarNews). Daily wraps will be provided at nelsonstar.com and on our Facebook page.