Now in its second week of play and going full steam ahead, Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association officials said some new ideas have received mostly positive feedback.
Nara Riplinger, president of the WLYSA, said the association is excited to have two new employees on board: Alexis Forseille as the office administrator and Oliver Hitch, the new technical director, who has been looking to put somewhat of a fresh spin on the start of the season.
“We’re at almost 1,000 kids registered in youth soccer, which makes it the largest sport organization between Kamloops and Prince George but, unfortunately, we have a fairly short season, so I think the important part is to give the changes a try, and let’s see,” Riplinger said.
“Change is different, and can be uncomfortable, but we’re asking people to jot down their thoughts as the season progresses and wait until the end when we’ll be doing a formal reflection and feedback through a survey.”
Riplinger is referring to, largely, an idea which has received some mixed reviews — particularly through social media — called silent soccer. During the first week’s games, coaches and parents were asked to be silent on the sidelines in order to give players a chance to talk amongst themselves on the pitch, and to figure out things that work, and things that don’t, on their own without having the added stress of coaches or parents shouting from the sidelines.
Both Riplinger and Hitch said a weekend of silent soccer was decided upon after reading positive literature on the idea.
“I thought it went well,” Hitch said. “I realize it was a mixed bag with the reception but I think, overall, it was successful. I’ve had lots of parents and coaches come up and say they thought it was a great idea and made them [the coaches and parents] give some more thought to what they are doing on the sidelines, and it allowed the kids to play in a stress-free environment.”
Riplinger agreed, and added it was a trial run, along with a fun way to start the season.
She said she’s excited to have Hitch on board, and looking forward to his approach on technical development for the association’s players, along with some of the changes made to the structuring of the WLYSA’s younger age groups.
Relatively new to the Williams Lake area, Hitch grew up in Southwest London in England, before moving to the U.S. to play four seasons of soccer with the Florida International University Panthers. He settled in the lakecity a few years ago, where he coached the Lake City Falcons high school boys team in 2016, before beginning work with the WLYSA in 2017.
“My vision is to make it as fun for the kids as possible so they can enjoy themselves and improve their skills at the same time,” Hitch said. “Ultimately, I’d like them to be able to play the game for as long as possible and to create lifelong athletes, even if they don’t choose to continue to play soccer, and to get them to enjoy taking part in sport. I’d like to create a positive environment where players can learn new skills and new things, make new friends and just become more rounded as people, in general.”
Riplinger noted the WLYSA is lucky to have Hitch, who started in the role as technical director for the association in January of 2019 and rolled out a successful winter futsal season, which ran in multiple locations and age groups.
“He’s come from overseas, and has a wealth of knowledge of the game,” she said, adding as the technical director he is responsible for setting that direction for the club and to provide guidance, leadership and support for the WLYSA’s house programs, development teams, rep teams and coaches.
“What he’s rolled out are common practice plans for different age groups that coaches can use as a guide, so if I’m a super experienced coach I might do my own practice, but if I’m a new coach I can do what Oliver’s laid out for me, which is nice for new coaches.”
Riplinger said she has been observing some of the practices and games over the past couple of weeks and said she’s thrilled with what she saw.
“The practices looked fantastic,” she said. “We have amazing coaches, and they’ve been really positive with taking the suggestions from Oliver in stride. Some have been implemented, some said we’ll try next week, and some said they’ll do their own thing, so everybody kind of made it work for them.”
Riplinger also added there is always room to add more volunteers due to the sheer volume of players within the association.
“Especially at the younger divisions were we need more parents per players and it’s a nice time to get involved with your kids when they’re young so it’s not intimidating when they’re older,” she said.
“It’s a really great association, it’s super positive, we work well with KidSport and other user groups, so if anyone is looking to get involved they can always contact the office and we’d welcome more volunteers.”
The WLYSA season runs over eight weeks until the end of June, however, the association will also offer some programs in the fall, winter and summer, such as the Future Stars program for under-9 and under-10 players, and development programs for U11/12 and U13-18 teams running through the summer.
Aside from all of the house division teams in age groups ranging from U4 to U18, rep teams are also underway.
This season, the WLYSA will field the following rep and development teams:
• U9 boys Future Stars
• U9/10 girls Future Stars
• U10 boys and girls development teams
• U11 boys and girls development teams
• U12 boys and girls development teams
• U13 girls
• U13/14 boys
• U15 girls
• U15-18 boys
• U16-18 girls
Hitch said the WLYSA’s year-end games will begin June 15, followed by the Cariboo Cup for the association’s rep teams from June 21-23.
This weekend, the association’s U9 to U15 girls teams competing in the Cariboo Youth Soccer League will be hosting teams Sunday at the Esler Sports Complex.
Games begin at 9:30 a.m. and go until 2 p.m.