by Kerstin Auer —
The Merritt Youth Soccer Association (MYSA) has become an integral part of the local sports scene over the years, but keeping the ball rolling is not always easy. The committed executive of currently eight volunteers strives to improve with each season, bringing the game of soccer closer to the hearts of Merrittonians, and kicking up the awareness about the league a notch.
One of the biggest challenges is, unsurprisingly, volunteer recruitment. The executive, among them Chelsea Werrun who currently serves as secretary, relies as much as possible on parent involvement. Some parents are part of the game along with their children, from U5 (Small Fry) all the way up to U13, and end up honing their coaching skills along the way. While the executive, most importantly the division directors, communicate regularly with their volunteers and make it a priority that everyone feels appreciated and comfortable, recruiting enough volunteers remains tricky.
“It’s tough right now, people are so stretched, whether it’s through work or volunteerism or child rearing, so it’s really tricky to make sure we can get enough volunteers.” said Werrun.
“Right now I know that U9 and U11 need more coaches, and we want to make sure we have enough coaches to cover the amount of kids who are interested in playing.”
The MYSA’s season runs from April to June and in addition to the executive, two coaches are needed for each team. For each of the five divisions this means 8-12 coaches, depending on the amount of teams in each division. About 250 youth join in the soccer fun each season, which means that as many as 60 volunteer coaches could be needed.
Currently, many of the executive members fill more than one position and each division director also doubles as head coach, like Mario Celella, who coaches the U5 division. His involvement started after last year’s AGM.
“Just seeing that a lot of groups were struggling to get people, it made me feel like if I don’t get involved, who is going to get involved?” noted Celella. This season is his second year of coaching, after his kids started playing. “Just hearing the possibility that the league is not going to exist if there are no coaches, I had no choice.”
With the threat of having to reduce the size of the league for this season looming, the executive stepped up their outreach to parents of all players and was able to secure enough volunteers to get started, but more are needed to keep going.
“We expect these program to be here, but nobody is really giving it the thought that the program is not going to exist if we don’t take part in it. I have seen that things are just dissolving and they are never coming back again because we are not getting involved.” added Celella.
The benefits of maintaining the MYSA are clear to him. “Keeping kids engaged in things, especially when it comes to the community, it’s a positive benefit for everybody.” he noted.
While the volunteer coaches are integral, there is another important position for any soccer game – the referee. Referees are paid a honorarium, about $25 per game, and the position is often filled by students from Merritt Secondary School. However, with games for the MYSA happening on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are often scheduling conflicts with high school sports programming, especially on Thursdays.
“We are definitely looking for anyone who is interested in reffing on a Thursday for our U9, U11, and U13 games” said Werrun. “There is a referee course you can take and then we have one of our super awesome locals, Ian Webster, who refs a lot of our games; he does a little orientation and he is really awesome in supporting us and lending his knowledge to the next generation.”
To get involved with the Merritt Youth Soccer Association in any capacity, reach out via their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MerrittYouthSoccer), or their website at www.merrittyouthsoccer.com.