After two seasons of canceled and modified soccer seasons, Heidi Murphy is excited to see more than 900 children and teens ready to lace up to play with the Valley East Soccer Club in Sudbury this summer.
This will be the club’s first full season since 2019, and Murphy said interest in the sport is back in full force — particularly with young children.
“What I’m seeing is that it’s a lot of our younger age divisions where those divisions have filled up and we had to create a wait list and then create more teams so we could include them,” Murphy said.
For many, at the end of COVID-19 restrictions will mean an active summer and a return to team sports.
Overall, registration at the Valley East club had more than doubled over last year, and is slightly higher than in 2019.
Lower enrollment among teens
At Sault Ste. Marie, the Sault Youth Soccer Club has seen a similar trend, where president Steve Mazzuca said registration for younger age groups has “bounced back completely.”
Both Mazzuca and Murphy said registration for teens is down however, compared to pre-pandemic. Though both said that didn’t come as a surprise.
“Ultimately, like with any sport, a lot of kids do drop out by the time they hit 13, 14 and 15 years old. So when you’re at that age and not being able to play for two years, the decision becomes much easier,” Mazzuca said.
He said it will likely take a few years to fully rebuild enrollment levels among teens.
Mazzuca was surprised, however, to see the enthusiasm for getting out on the field extend to volunteers as well. During his decade with the club, he said finding enough volunteer coaches each season has been a consistent challenge. But that has not been the case this year.
“For whatever reason this year, it seems like parents, volunteers, whoever, appear to be more motivated and want to get involved,” Mazzuca said.
“I guess maybe two years of not doing much in the summer made some of these individuals more motivated.”