|Afternoon rainfall couldn’t stop an energetic line-up of young soccer players from taking over the muddy fields of the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.
Emily Senger, Centretown News
Ottawa kids aged eight to 12 get a chance to improve their skills at clinics held on Sundays by The Ottawa Fury soccer club.
Parents watched their children from beneath umbrellas as the players passed, weaved and kicked during the Ottawa Fury’s School of Excellence development clinic.
The Ottawa Fury, a semi-professional soccer club with several competitive teams, is offering the free clinic every Sunday to children between the ages of eight and 12.
“We’re trying to give them some exposure to some really excellent coaches without having to leave the community clubs that they play for,” said John Pugh, Fury owner and CEO.
The soccer club says the program is an opportunity to bank on the growing popularity of the sport within Ottawa and across the country by helping young players develop the skills necessary to play soccer well.
According to Statistics Canada, soccer is the most popular sport among five to 14-year-olds in Canada, with 20 per cent of children in this age group playing on organized teams.
“We’ve seen soccer growing tremendously over the last couple of years,” said Graeme Ivory, communications and program coordinator with the Fury. “So we want to make sure that we can get as many kids involved as possible.”
Organizers of the clinic hope that the players participating in the program will stick with soccer once they’ve had a taste of Fury coaching, perhaps signing up for the club’s winter classes.
“We’re taking the expertise we have within the club and the coaches and getting them with the community to meet players and build some relationships with them,” said Frank Lofranco, director of the Fury academic program.
Which is why the program focuses on children aged eight to 12.
“These are the most critical years in the terms of the development of a child,” Lofranco said. “It’s the age at which kids start to express passion for certain activities, whatever they might be.”
Laki Kourakis’ older children enrolled in the clinic last year, the first time it was offered, and loved it. His younger daughter couldn’t wait to participate this year and joined 285 other registrants on the field despite the lousy weather.
“She’s heard about it before, so there’s the extra excitement of being able to be here,” he said. “It’s not her normal place of doing practices; the whole experience for a young child is quite exciting.”
If one player embodied that excitement it was Emilie de Vlois.
De Vlois, in the under-12 class, plays with the Cumberland Cobras throughout the year but said she came to see what the Fury had to offer. She said that she was uncertain if she played soccer for fun or with the hope of becoming a professional but asserted that she wants to keep on playing either way.
Involvement like hers is what the clinic’s organizers say they’re looking for.
“We’re hoping that these five sessions satisfy the appetites that many of these kids have to be kicking a ball,” said Lofranco.