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School soccer program give kids chance to play

The Prince George Youth Soccer Association had an offer School District 57 could not refuse.

The Prince George Youth Soccer Association had an offer School District 57 could not refuse.

The idea was to bring a group of minor soccer coaches into the city's elementary schools and target a group of students in Grades 2-4 to teach them how to play the game.

The roots were planted first in January at Westwood elementary and by the time new grass was springing up on the school fields in April, six elementaries were participating, giving some kids who had never played soccer before a chance to get their boots in motion.

Backed by the sponsorship of Integris Credit Union, the program culminates today at Rotary Soccer Field with a three-hour playday.

"It was just a way for (the PGYSA) to connect with the community and engage in sports with the kids at zero cost, so zero barriers for the families, and they offered it for up to 30 students (to each school)," said Erica McLean, community school co-ordinator at Westwood elementary, who took on the job of organizing the program with PGYSA sports administrator Caitlyn Lamble.

Other participating schools include Peden Hill, Spruceland Traditional, Quinson, Nusdeh Yoh, Ron Brent, Van Bien. Four of the schools will be represented on the field in the playday today and some will bring enough players for two teams. Each team will play a series of mini-games of two 20-minute halves.

"Westwood has a very diverse population of students and families and we have a lot of students who are super-keen on sports and do play a lot of organized sports," said McLean, whose Westwood team has 12 players. "We also have students coming out for the first time who do not always have the opportunity to play an organized sport."

McLean said some of those students can't afford to play minor soccer or have parents who work afternoons and evenings when games are scheduled and can't bring their kids to the field.

The program was taught after school for an hour each time and each school received eight training sessions. Based on the popularity of the program with the young players, McLean has every reason to believe it will become an annual event.

"The PGYSA coaches come in and provide solid foundation skills for soccer," said McLean. "For this, we had at least nine coaches involved. They have been so supportive and wonderful. These experts are very good at what they do and they want to share their passion with our students, then we absolutely have to do it. It's been a huge success so far."