After it was announced on June 7 that sports teams could return to training, the Ponoka Storm took about a week to get organized and then hit the pitch.
The Ponoka Minor Soccer Association started practicing in groups of 10, with a ratio of two coaches to eight players.
They have now finished two weeks of their modified season.
They lost about 25 per cent of their registration during the uncertain period of the last shutdown, but were able to form U5, U7 and U9 house teams and five competitive teams, says PMSA president Rob McArthur.
He added that although that was very understandable as each family had to make decisions about what was best for them, the association hopes to see them back next year.
Due to the modified season, there is no league play, and every association is arranging their own games.
The house teams will play until the first week of July and the competitive teams will run until the end of July.
The competitive teams will play friendly matches against Stettler, Wetaskiwin and Lacombe teams and their won’t be any league standings.
That doesn’t mean the players won’t give it their all, however.
“The moment they put on a jersey that says ‘Ponoka’ and they hit the pitch against another team, their competitive side is going to come out,” said McArthur.
Another challenge soccer associations in Alberta are facing this year is a severe shortage of certified referees, he says. For example, in 2019, there were 10 to 15 certified refs in Ponoka, and this year there are only four.
Because of this, the U9 coaches have had to step and and learn some reffing basics. With the shorter season and fewer games, they have been managing.
“We’re making it work and modifying.”
That’s one cool thing about soccer, is that is can be easily played with fewer players on the field, unlike a sport like baseball.
The first pair of home games are this Thursday, as the U15 Girls take on Stettler at Lucas Heights East and the U11 Boys play Stettler at Scout Hall. Both games start at 7 p.m.