CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
The soccer fields in Ponoka will be a busy place July 8 to 10 as the Ponoka Minor Soccer Association has won its bid to host the girls’ under-18 and under-14 provincial soccer championships.
“We’ve got our committee together and we’re starting to get on a roll,” said Shawna Pearman, who will oversee both tournaments and is the assistant coach of the under-14 team.
The tournaments combined bring 20 teams to the town; something Pearman believes should benefit the community as a whole.
“There will be approximately 350 players in town throughout the weekend so there should be a huge benefit to local business because people are going to camp here, they’re going to stay in hotels, they’re going to eat here, buy gas here and do everything here,” explained Pearman.
Which teams will be in town hasn’t been decided yet but the tournament will provide Ponoka a chance to showcase itself.
Soccer, or football if you prefer, has grown in the last five years in Ponoka. Youth programs have as many as four teams in one age group as parents elect to register kids for a sport that has a lot of upside. For starters, all you need is a ball and a field to begin playing and a high level of technical skill level isn’t a necessary prerequisite as it is in other sports.
One area the community does lack is a dedicated area for multiple soccer fields and none of the parks provide change rooms or washroom facilities.
“It is one thing from our perspective, that we don’t have the high quality fields to host big tournaments but this year we thought, ‘Let’s go for it’ and we’ll do our best and put on the best show we can,” said Pearman. “It’s also a huge expense because we’ll have to bring them (portable washrooms) in to each site but it’s something we’ll have to do and we’re hoping the community will get behind us and help us put on a great event.
On the pitch both teams should have a chance to medal on home soil.
The under-14 team, the Ponoka Strikers, is first in the Central Alberta Soccer Association’s (CASA) tier 4 league with a record of 7-1-1 in nine contests and recently grabbed a silver medal in Camrose at the Under the Lights tournament.
The under-18 team, the Ponoka Fusion, is third in the CASA tier 4 league with a .500 record of 3-3-1, but their record might not tell the whole story. The Fusion have scored five more goals than they have allowed with all of their losses coming in low scoring, competitive games that could have gone either way.
“They both have really good teams and that’s what we’re hoping for, that they can place at provincials,” said Pearman.
One of the perks of hosting the tournament is it gives some of the under-18 girls a chance to play their last competitive game of soccer in Ponoka in front of friends and family in their backyard.
“It was certainly one of the main reasons the team decided to bid for provincials and many of them have played together since they were six or seven, and for about half of the team it will be their last year of soccer in Ponoka.”
The organizing committee is looking for sponsors to help cover the costs associated with not one but two large tournaments being held in the community.
“We don’t charge a registration fee to the teams that participate in provincials and we are certainly looking for anything from businesses. We will be having a Heart and Hustle Award for each game…and anyone who does donate towards the heart and hustle award if they would like they can come and present at the end of the game,” said Pearman. “I think bringing in 350 kids and families really helps to promote our town and we hope everyone gets on board.”
If you’d like to sponsor the provincial tournaments or a Heart and Hustle Award, contact Pearman at 403-783-4206.