IROQUOIS – In less than two weeks, nearly 400 soccer players will take to the pitches in Iroquois as the South Dundas Soccer Association kicks off its 26th season May 21.
“Registration is nearly at the point it was before the pandemic,” said SDSA President Phillip Blancher. “With late registrations, we’ve had to cap some levels as there was no more room for players.”
This year the organization will field 36 teams across six divisions from U5 to U18, all with fewer than 50 coaches.
Blancher explained that some of the volunteer coaches are coaching two teams.
“It’s always a challenge to attract new coaches. We’re fortunate that there are a number of students who volunteer too.”
This year there are a number of changes made to the operation of the program, some of which were borne out of the pandemic.
When league play resumed in 2021, a number of restrictions were in place due to COVID-19. Blancher said the longer break between games was well-liked so that has been carried on to this season.
“Coaches and parents last year were positive about the 15 minute break between each time spot,” he said. “It gives people with multiple children in different spots the time to move to the next game without feeling rushed.”
Previously, soccer ran one hour sessions each Saturday with the time split between training, skills development, and then a game. That has been expanded to 75 minutes allowing more time for each. Another change implemented was full online registration which Blancher admitted had some push back.
“There is the issue of access to computers and using online payment systems,” he said. “We’ve been flexible and worked with families registering to keep the sport as accessible as possible to as many players possible. Overall online registration has worked and will continue in future years.”
Volunteers have been out since May 1 getting fields lined and equipment ready. Some of that equipment is new this year thanks to an addition to the club’s sponsorship program. The SDSA has 13 business sponsors at two levels, all South Dundas-based businesses and/or franchisees.
“We’ve added some training aids to help coaches develop players, bought new soccer goals for the U5 division, made improvements to the washroom facilities, and are realigning the municipal soccer fields to square those up,” Blancher said. He added that except for use of the municipal and Upper Canada District School Board soccer pitches, the club does not receive any government subsidy or funding, and did not apply for any COVID-19 sport-related recovery funding.
He said that the club is working on a couple of projects that will require a larger fundraising effort including replacing some of the club’s larger soccer goal frames, and further improvements to the soccer pitch areas.
Focusing on this season, Blancher said he is happy to see almost as many players registered this year as there were in 2019.
“Some programs have struggled with recovering registration numbers,” Blancher said. “We’re fortunate to have gone against that trend. It will be good to be back on the pitch again and return to something resembling normalcy.”
The SDSA’s regular season will run Saturdays from May 21 to July 16. A playoff tournament will run select evenings from July 19-22, with the tournament finals on July 23. Late registration remains open until May 20. The club is also still registering soccer players for its Summer/Fall season to start late August and run until October. More information and registration is available at southdundassoccer.org.