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Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018
Rain lets up for soccer night in Rayside
by Randy Pascal

If the area soccer youngsters were to wait for the appearance of bright blue sunny skies before taking to local fields, then games played to date this spring could likely be counted on just one hand. That is precisely why the Rayside-Balfour Minor Soccer Association crew were out in full force on Tuesday night, despite some nasty looking clouds and the threat of even more rain.

Thankfully, for the most part, the precipitation would hold off, or would at least hold off in the area of the Lionel Lalonde Centre fields in Azilda, as the U8 division welcomed a traditional matchup of Tim Horton’s sponsored teams, the “green” and “red” squads on this particularly festive evening (think Christmas!).

The score of the encounter was secondary, as it should be, with the kids spending only slightly more time on their soccer pursuits than on the countless other things that might keep them otherwise occupied during the game. There was, for instance, little doubt that a much needed sprint to the nearest porta potty did not provide nearly enough time to actually clear the ball out of harm’s way as a young defender was making his quickest run of the game to answer nature’s call.

And while the developing soccer skills were evident, at various points, they were intermixed with some impressive displays of handstands, the requisite waves to supporting family members as the ball whistled ball, and opponents catching up on the latest social news from school that day, even if that meant a brief mid-game rest somewhere on the field not too close to where possession of the ball was being contested.

Though eight year-old Parker Linesman and his teammates might not have emerged victorious, the grade two student at Ecole Ste Marie still had plenty to talk about post-game, the first half of which he would spend tending the nets.

“No one else wanted to go in net, and I kind of wanted to, so I went in,” explained Linesman. “Saving goals to help my whole team is good.” Hard to argue that train of thought. Now in his third year in the league, Linesman would switch positions for the second half of the seven v seven matchup, adding a goal to his statistical resume for the game.

“I remember that I got it from our goalie, I ran up, I did a big kick that went through legs, and then I just got it back and took a big kick, and the goalie kicked it in his own net.” And one wonders why soccer commentators worldwide will condense the call to a simple scream of “G-O-O-O-A-A-A-L-L!!”

Over time, rules have evolved in the younger age brackets, including a variation that now forces teams back on to their own side of half when a goal kick is being taken, ensuring that the ball is not rifled immediately right back into the net from whence it came. That extra time allowed Linesman and his mates to come up with a plan about how best to work their way from end of the pitch to the other.

“The goalies passes it to one of the players on the line, and then we all have to run up, and the plan is to do passes to get it past all of them, so that we have a chance to go and do some goals,” he said.

In fact, it would be fair to say that a fair bit of on-field planning was taking place on both sides in this game. Just seven years old, but one of several talented ball-handlers on Team Red, Jordan Boyer would let the cat out of the bag about how his teammates came up with a clever way to free up some room for Noah, their leading scorer.

“When Noah has the ball, we would say “pass, pass, pass”, and then they (Team Green) would go in front of us, but there was no one in front of him, so after he could go and score,” explained Boyer. And while that may have worked on one or two occasions, the key to the Red victory was a well-balanced attack that saw many jump into the mix, including Boyer.

Mia (opposing player, but classmate) kicked it and it went off Jackson’s tip of his cleat and I got it and I was really close to the net,” recalled Boyer. “I tried to shoot it and it went in the net.” Turns out some of the extra practice he would enjoy from attending indoor soccer sessions in the winter, and a soccer camp as well, were paying dividends.

That was likely the thought on the adjacent field, where the majority of the Chartrand’s Your Independent Grocer U12 team gathered for a practice session. Jenelle Rancourt is a ten year old student of Alliance St Joseph, the home to most of the players on her mixed team. Playing on the larger full-sized field for the first time, Rancourt is working diligently on her individual skills, now that she has a solid grasp of the tricky offside rule in soccer.

“The defence that is most close to the goalie, you can’t go past them, because if you’re past, you’re offside,” suggested the young striker. “If you touch the ball, the goal won’t count. But if the person passes it to you and you’re not offside, and after you go and you’re in back of the defender, then you can go and score.”

One year younger, teammate Lyle Gorval is taking a very pragmatic approach to his soccer, already looking to his future potential. “I like practicing so that I can get better, and one day, maybe, I can play in a bigger league, a competitive league,” said the older of two boys in the family.

A midfielder at heart, Gorval offers his coaching staff some handy versatility from his position on the flanks. “I like taking the ball away in front of people when they’re on a breakaway,” he explained. “I like running up and down the field, and I like scoring goals to help make us win.”

And to his credit, he is not in search of any easy victories. “I like playing against Nickel Belt Camping,” he stated. “There’s a lot of people I know on that team, and there’s a lot of competitive players. I like playing against hard teams.”

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