Lack of Indoor Practice Space Affects Soccer Teams

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BY MARCIA JANSEN

DRIFTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR 

Salt Spring United’s youth soccer players are facing a challenging fall and winter. 

School District 64 has closed the gymnasiums for community soccer activities until at least January. With some fields in poor condition already and the change back to Pacific Standard Time on Nov. 7, teams will have limited opportunities to practice.

With 270 members and a total of nine travelling teams and seven “house program” groups, Salt Spring United is the biggest sports provider on the island. Portlock Park, the ‘Hydro field’ at the middle school and the upper high school field are the main soccer fields used by the club.

The SD64 board decided in September to close the gyms for community soccer activities this winter.

“In September, with COVID rates rising across our region, it was felt that continuing to limit non-school activities occurring in our buildings would help reduce the risk of transmission,” said secretary-treasurer Jesse Guy.

 “The schools are already under a lot of pressure, there are so many COVID protocols that we have to follow and adding extra people to our gyms, even though those are mostly kids that are going to our schools, would make things more complicated and stressful,” Guy continued. “We hope that we are in a different place in the new year and we will reassess in January.”

Salt Spring United faces challenges in the upcoming months because of the closed gymnasiums. 

“It is very unfortunate because as a club we rely on those gyms,” said club president Malcolm Legg. “The fields get too mucky with this rainfall, so we can’t play on them, and with the time change, the darkness is a problem.”

The practice areas are the first fields to close due to muddy conditions. The main field at Portlock remains open longer through poor weather as it has better drainage. If all the fields are closed, teams can’t practice, and the travelling teams have to play all their games off-island. 

“It is a multi-faceted problem. We already have limited space, fields are overused and the weather is taking a toll on the grass fields as they need dry weather in order to be played on”

Colin Walde, who has been a soccer coach for more than 20 years, is looking for options for his girls U15 gold team. 

“It is very frustrating,” he said. “I am not sure what we are going to do when the fields are closed, and I don’t think that will take too long. Maybe we have to start to practice on Fridays, or we will be just playing games, without any practice, which would be really sad.”

All soccer clubs on Vancouver Island have one or more turf fields they can use for practice. 

“It is unfortunate that we don’t have that option here,” said Walde. “Even when the gyms are open, it is not ideal. We can only use the gym for one hour a week and that’s not enough. There is also not a lot of room in the gym, which makes it hard to play games and teach skills.”

SD64 decided in 2020 against building an all-weather turf field. 

Legg said, “A turf field would be the solution to our problem, but it doesn’t appear to be in the works at the moment. Salt Spring United invested a lot of money in the plan, and it is up to the school district to go forward or not. In the meanwhile, we hope that the weather will get better, so we can continue to play until the winter break, and hopefully, we can use the gyms again in January.”   

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