A new provincial mandate regarding age-groups will mean a drastic change and new teams for Ponoka Minor Soccer in 2018.
The Alberta Soccer Association (ASA) determined that rural soccer leagues will transition to odd-numbered age categories to line up with the rest of the province. That means all tiers across Alberta must now implement the new divisions for the coming outdoor season.
“We will now have new divisions going from U5 to U19. These were used in the larger urban centres, but now the ASA has mandated they be used across the province,” said Rob McArthur, president of Ponoka Minor Soccer.
Previously, the U6 division would have the largest number of registrations in Ponoka and those numbers tended to drop from there, before falling when it hit the competitive levels that started at U12.
“As for registrations, there was that nice progression and we always knew pretty much what to expect for numbers,” McArthur explained.
“With this change, we now have no idea what we can expect especially since this adds two divisions to the list — U5 and U19. The move has created an unknown for us. We are confident that we can handle it and we look forward to it.”
That said, McArthur added there are going to be a few challenges when it comes to dealing with the change.
“It’s really hard for me to imagine three and four year-olds on the pitch, but that should be fairly easy to get coaches, since it’s really more about getting them to move rather than learning the game,” he stated.
“The big problem may come at U19, where now kids coming back from first year university are now eligible to play again. However, it could get a bit messy as there may be some communities that won’t have enough players, so you’ll wind up seeing combined U17/19 teams.”
Big year ahead
With the group’s AGM held last week, McArthur explained the executive and board have been set and the association is in good hands with several new people stepping up to fill positions.
Some former members have stayed, but in a more volunteer capacity.
And Ponoka is continuing to show it is becoming the place to be for soccer, since the community will play host to a pair of prestigious tournaments for the second straight year.
Ponoka was selected to hold the Central Alberta Soccer Association (CASA) provincial qualifying tournament as well as the fall all-star tournament after hosting both events in 2017.
“Last year, the CASA qualifier brought 42 teams and about 2,000 people into Ponoka for a three day weekend,” said McArthur. “With the age change, we are anticipating more teams and more people.”
“All of these kinds of events are something we can hang our hat on, bringing people to town and being the soccer destination in central Alberta, the place people want to come to. We are now beginning to show the mayor and council that the new fields and the work done to them is starting to pay off.”
For anyone hoping to register their child, registration forms can be picked up at the Ponoka Aquaplex and must be returned to the pool with full payment by March 31. Anyone needing more information can check out Ponoka Minor Soccer on Facebook or go to the website.