After a slight delay last weekend, due to soggy field conditions, the 2014 outdoor soccer season has officially begun for Nelson Youth Soccer.
On Wednesday afternoon, all four teams in the U17 mixed division took to the fields at Lakeside Park for a pair of tilts.
While other squads were practicing on adjacent pitches, the season opener began with the Bridge beating Golder Associates 8-3. The later game featured Cowan’s versus Pacific Insight.
Cowan’s won the match 5-2.
The day marked what is expected to be a busy time on the soccer scene as the other divisions are set to play on Saturday.
“This (U17) is a brand new division that the board has sorted out,” said Jay Whitman, coach of the Cowan’s squad.
“It’s a return to mix. When you are in U6 you start out in a mixed league and then you don’t go back to it until the 17 age.”
Whitman, a six year veteran at the coaching position was doing double duty on Wednesday as he also filled in as coach for the Bridge.
He said he was impressed by what he saw on the field, from all the squads.
“You know, it’s a good thing that these kids have played for a long time. They have a real feel for the game at this age. We don’t do any practicing. They pretty much take care of themselves.”
Whitman said it makes his job as coach easy as he only has to give his players “little pointers.”
“They are doing well positionally. They have good separation and good lateral movement. So it’s great. They are doing everything that we set them up to do at the early ages.”
He said the creation of the U17 mixed league is a “numbers game,” and is a great way to give players at this age a chance to play.
“At this age, I think the kids are becoming more social again and being a house league, it offers them a chance to mingle a bit and they are all very skilled at this age — both the boys and the girls,” said Whitman.
The camaraderie between the players was evident on the pitch as both squads bantered back and forth with each other. At times they even cheered each other on.
“It’s a great group of kids that are really respectful with each other.”
According to Whitman, league managers organize and balance each team by skill level and ability and also take in special circumstance like the need to car pool and other factors.
The result is a collection of evenly matched teams that feature players of varying skill levels. It also means best friends could be on rival sides at game time.
Players seem to enjoy the games, even if it is only for a short time.
“This season runs until part way through June. It’s a shortened season for the U17 teams. And they do not return in the fall.”
The other divisions play games until September.
Whitman is quick to compliment the NYS executive for all the hard work they do to make the league a success. He also said it’s a huge advantage for the players to have Brett Adams on board as technical director.
“He’s fantastic. He’s got amazing credentials.”
On Saturday, at Lakeside Parks, the rest of the house teams will begin play. Games run from 8 a.m. on.