Positive bounce back leads to expansion of soccer programs

MORRISBURG – As its successful winter program continues, registration for the South Dundas Soccer’s 2023 programming opened earlier this month, looking to build on last year’s momentum.

“To bounce back in registration from the COVID shutdowns was more than I expected,” said Phil Blancher, SDSA president. “We returned to pre-pandemic registration levels and grew our fall season. Now our winter indoor program is growing too.”

Since November 30, 2022, the SDSA has offered an indoor soccer program that is free for youth age 8-12. Located at Morrisburg Public School, the Wednesday night program is adding additional days on to its schedule, and will run now until March Break.

“Weather cancellations and school PA days are a factor,” Blancher explained. “Between the late return from Christmas break, a snow day, and a PA day, we decided to add more days to make up for the January days lost.”

The indoor winter program will run now until March 8. There will be no soccer on February 1 as that is an Upper Canada District School Board PA day, and use of the school is unavailable.

The soccer association, entering its 29th year of operation, opened its online-based registration for its summer and fall outdoor programs on January 1. Soccer fees remain unchanged at $45 per player per season and the program is open to players born between 2005 and 2019.

South Dundas Soccer’s 2023 summer season will run from May 20 to July 29. A two-day playoff tournament will take place July 28-29. Blancher explained the season is a week longer on the calendar due to the Canada Day long weekend. July 1 is on a Saturday in 2023.

“We decided that with Canada Day being on a Saturday, it’s better to take the week off than run that week and have many people away,” he said.

After a month off in August, the SDSA’s fall season will kick off on September 9 and run until October 21 when a one day soccer playoff tournament will take place.

Some changes are in store for soccer players in 2023 according to Blancher. After reviewing current trends in soccer, input from local coaches, and discussion, the Tim Bits program used for U5-U9 players will be modified. These changes include modifying when throw-ins are introduced, faster substitution of players, and dealing with offside rules.

“We’re going to use similar rules to what we’ve adopted for indoor soccer as it allows more opportunities for development and playing time,” Blancher said. “This will get players working on the fundamentals faster, and build on the great programming already offered by our association.”

Field sizes and team structures will not be modified however, unlike changes made in the development pathways for other sports.

Rebuilding its travelling competitive soccer program is taking longer than expected. Blancher said he has reached out to neighbouring clubs to see about interest in forming a league in the region, but “it’s early days.” The Seaway Kickers travelling club, which was affiliated with the SDSA, last fielded a team in the Ottawa area in 2018. In 2019 and 2022, the SDSA organized competitive-level friendly matches against area soccer clubs at the U11, U14, and U18 levels.

“I want to bring this back as it gives more options for players to stay locally and play at a high level,” Blancher said.

Fundraising continues…

The SDSA has completed the fundraising for one pair of soccer goals for the municipal-owned fields in Iroquois, and work is underway with the goal of raising enough money for a second pair before the May 20 kick off of its summer season. An online-based 50/50 draw is planned to begin in April, and the organization is looking at grant applications and other funding avenues to help.

I’d love to see us get all three fields new goals this year, but I am trying to be practical.”

Costs are something top of mind for everyone involved with running the organization. Field paint costs nearly doubled in 2022.

“Like everything else, those costs have not gone down and likely won’t,” he said. “Fortunately we did a good amount of equipment renewal in 2022 so we’re in good shape for 2023.”

Looking further ahead…

It may be 10 months away, but the successful indoor soccer pilot project by the SDSA will run a full indoor season beginning at the end of November. Starting November 28, the SDSA will offer indoor soccer competition from U9 and up, depending on registration numbers.

Help wanted…

Soccer has been growing, and rebuilding after the pandemic shutdown of 2020 and only half the usual registration in 2021. Blancher said the organization’s volunteer board continues to get smaller and smaller, and more volunteers are needed to help.

“It’s not a lot of work for many people, but it’s getting to be a lot for the few of us getting things ready. Preparing for the season. A few more hands helping out would be awesome,” he said. “This is a great, successful, community-run program. It has a long history in the community. Players who started here years ago now have kids of their own playing here. It’s part of what makes this program a great part of South Dundas.”

Families who want to register for the 2023 soccer can do so at the organization’s website: http://www.southdundassoccer.org. Anyone who would like to volunteer can do so by filling out the volunteer registration form on the website, or by calling 543-2168.

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