Province's top young players flock to YaraCentre for showcase
Saturday the mercury steadily dropped while winds gusting up to 80 km/h limited visibility.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Members of the Saskatchewan Soccer Association's high performance teams squared off Saturday at YaraCentre.
It was a perfect day for some high-level soccer.
The Saskatchewan Soccer Association brought more than 100 of the best male and female under-18 soccer players in the province together to the warm, calm indoors at YaraCentre this weekend. At the same time, they also hosted four university women’s teams as part of its University Showcase Series.
“It’s good opportunity to get good competition and 11-a-side soccer in January in Saskatchewan. Who would have thought?” said Dave Nutt, the director of soccer operations for the SSA.
Two women’s games were played Saturday and a pair of men’s games were played Sunday involving the SSA’s Indoor Showcase League. Each day began with the CIS women’s programs from Saskatchewan, Regina, Calgary and Alberta playing a pair of exhibition games. After they played Saturday, the Canada West teams were able to watch the best 14-18 year old female players in the province play each other.
“The same way that we value the opportunity to get 11-a-side games, it’s the same kind of thing for them,” Nutt said of the CIS teams who took part in the SSA weekend for the first time. “They’re not able to do it in Alberta because they don’t have facilities like this either. It’s a great chance for them to come in, extend their season a little bit and have a look at the players they have for next year as well.”
The SSA divided their high performance female group into three teams. In the early game the younger players faced each other and then the older group faced off against Regina’s QCT — the under-18 provincial champions.
Nutt said being able evaluate and work with their players in an 11v11 game in the dead winter was valuable, but also facing a high-level of competition was just as important.
“It’s really important for our athletes to get a chance to play 11-a-side soccer more often,” he said. “Facilities like this allows us to bring our best athletes together. To couple that with the universities makes it even more enjoyable. You get some good games with the universities and then the coaches are here to see what talent is on hand for the next generation.”
While the players were hoping to catch the eye of a CIS coach, their more immediate focus is to earn a spot on one of the SSA’s various age-group provincial teams. That is part of the process, but Nutt said that the continued development of their young players was paramount.
“It’s development first, which is what we’re always about, but we’re constantly evaluating. Eventually there will be opportunities for trips internationally for our provincials teams, so that’s part of it,” said Nutt. “It’s a constant evaluation, but the most important part of it is the development side and the chance to play 11-a-side games in an environment where the result is important, but the quality of play is more important.”
Sunday, four men’s club academy teams that are part of the SSA’s under-18 training to compete program also played. Saskatoon’s Astra Academy and Huskies United Soccer Academy (HUSA) took part along with a pair of teams from the Unidad club in Regina.
The training to compete teams will be back in Moose Jaw again as part of the Indoor Showcase League. The league will play four weekends in Moose Jaw and two in Saskatoon.
When they return in two weeks, the SSA will also have a group of 12-15 year olds training as well.