Kids soccer touches multiple generations
ST. IGNATIUS — The Mission Valley Soccer Association is well underway this year with their fourth game coming up this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the St. Ignatius practice field.
Started about 20 years ago, the association includes kids in kindergarten through sixth grade from Ronan, Pablo, St. Ignatius, Charlo, and Arlee. With over 330 kids participating, this marks one of the association’s biggest years yet.
According to Jim Myers, who coaches Ronan players, the program is going through a rebirth of sorts. After missing the 2017 season due to the smoke from fires and the 2020 season due to COVID, the association has been ramping things up in the last couple of years to get kids back involved.
A coach for the last 11 years, Myers has seen the impact soccer has had on the community of the valley spread over multiple generations. “We’re having parents who played in this league, now their kids are playing in it. It’s kind of neat to get to see that,” he commented. “Last Saturday my wife and I were counting, and I think we counted roughly between 50-70 fans per game. There’re five fields going, so at any given time there’s 300-500 people there. It’s pretty well attended.”
A recreation league not affiliated with any other, the soccer association doesn’t have a tournament system or ranking at the end of the year. Instead, they hold five round robin games to get kids outside and rely on the support of the community.
“This is my first year. I like it,” stated nine-year-old Emma VanNess of the Ronan Scorpions team.
“It’s cool to see all the families and the kids. It brings everybody together,” added one of Emma’s attendees, Tracy VanNess.
Though not put on by the schools, the forms for kids to sign up are distributed through the school districts. Local sponsors provide the jerseys, and parents and community members step in wherever needed to make the soccer association happen. Eventually, there are hopes to grow the program to offer soccer to more age groups as well.
“I think it’s important that they have sports outside the schools so other kids can join. Out here it’s every kid, they’re on different teams and they build new relationships,” commented Hank Conko-Camel, attending for 11-year-old Spokane Conko-Camel of the Spicy Goldfish team.
“It’s good exercise, and I see she has good comradery with all her teammates. They all do,” said Tracy Burland, also attending for Conko-Camel. “They want to do good and help each other.”
“One of the best things about this county is the parental involvement,” Myers stated. “Soccer has struggled in a lot of areas in America to establish the popularity it has worldwide, but when you see the fans on Saturday morning, the parents and the families and the friends and the kids, you wouldn’t know that … it’s a really positive experience. I can’t be thankful enough for that and I really, above all else, strive to make soccer a safe space for kids. Maintain that positivity and just make it a fun, safe learning environment. That’s the idea, that’s the mission, but that’s also the reward.”
To learn more or to find out how to get involved in future seasons, visit: www.facebook.com/missionvalleysoccer