The city’s biggest sports organization is finding success comes with its own problems.
Financial records show Nelson Soccer Association (NSA), which changed its name from Nelson Youth Soccer Association at its annual general meeting Monday night, remains in the black. But the gathering was dominated by debate over registration numbers for the indoor program.
Indoor soccer netted NSA $53,307 last year, far below the $85,804 in 2015. That loss came primarily from a $22,084 drop in registration fee revenue. Executive director Sveta Tisma said he wasn’t sure why indoor had lost players, and wondered if it wasn’t a byproduct of the sport peaking locally.
“It’s probably the curse of a small community,” he said.
Ostensibly, NSA is in good financial health. It posted $6,876 excess of revenue over expenses last year, which went up slightly from $5,492. It also put another $70,000 toward paying off its loan to the city for the indoor soccer facility, and expects the remaining $90,000 to be paid off by May 2019.
Outdoor soccer also remains incredibly popular in Nelson. There were 960 players in NSA’s outdoor youth leagues and programs this summer, which held steady from the previous year. The adult city league featured 225 players, down slightly from 268 in 2016.
But the discussion took on an existential tone as the board, coaches and parents tried to find solutions to not only the indoor dilemma, but also a worrisome drop in female players at all ages in the house teams.
An under-17 co-ed indoor league, for example, featured just 40 players and was criticized for offering little incentives to women. The counter to that was low registration in that age group necessitated the co-ed league, but NSA board members conceded they needed to take another look at all their programs.
“The issue is as much as you run the present and try to win or do well at provincials, you also have to think five years ahead,” said Tisma. “What if your under-13 enrollment in rep is really low? Because in three, four more years you might not have that team anymore. So it’s an ongoing issue.”
Concerns were also raised about a gulf in talent between house and rep players. Some participants said too much emphasis was being placed on rep, which led to house players feeling underdeveloped.
Tisma described house players as the bread and butter of their organization, and said NSA needs to figure out how to bridge the gap between its worst and best athletes.
“The problem is if you don’t have a decent house, you aren’t going to get enough players to play rep. House is important because it feeds your rep players, but how do you raise that level?”
Monday night’s meeting was also notable for who wasn’t there. President Kerry Dyck, who is battling lung and brain cancer, wasn’t in attendance. His two-year term ended at the meeting, although a replacement has yet to be publicly named.
Tisma wasn’t that concerned about NSA’s new challenges. The organization is in such financial health that it is still saving money for a possible permanent turf field, and in Tisma’s opinion that stability will make it easier to address its other problems.
“We are doing really well in many aspects,” he said. “For what we are, for the size of the town, people forget that 10 per cent of this whole population is playing soccer. Huge percentage. You go anywhere, you’re not going to meet that. You go to Europe, it won’t be that. So in that respect, we are successful. No questions asked. It’s just tweaking.”