A 13 year summer tradition in Sudbury is moving forward, albeit with a twist. A total of 68 youth rep soccer teams will gather in the Nickel City, nothing new for those who recall the outstanding work that has been completed, over the years, by those involved with the Sudbury Panhellenic Soccer Tournament.
But with the move to the one-club system in the 2011, the local competition is amended slightly, henceforth known as the Greater Sudbury Impact Soccer Tournament. For 10 year old defender Andrew Middleton of Bristol Machine, the name change means very little.
He's just pleased to be able to get a chance to push himself further on the soccer pitch. "I do like the game, but I wanted a little more of a challenge, to learn more about soccer and maybe even get better," Middleton said at a media reception Thursday at the Travelodge Hotel.
Working with coach Jake Mashinter for a second consecutive season, the lessons drilled home in practice seem to be paying off. "Positioning, footwork and working as a team," Middleton continued.
"The key for me is to stay on the ball, pressure the player. I have to get close enough to force his move and then follow him." Involved with the steering committee that eventually merged seven local clubs overseeing youth rep soccer in the area to the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC), Bruce Lindsay is currently the secretary of the association.
He is well aware that there remains plenty of work to be done with the GSSC, but is pleased with some of the feedback in very specific areas. "The very first thing that comes to mind is the response we receive from parents when we offer the pre-season training," Lindsay explained.
"Parents walking away and saying that was the best soccer practice they've ever seen run. Credit for that goes to Tom Ryan (GSSC Technical Director) and Giuseppe Politi (club head coach)," Lindsay noted.
"It really is about giving kids an option, instead of floating, not knowing where to go for competitive soccer," Lindsay said. "If they prefer to play a little more relaxed, they can play recreational."
"There will always be a need for recreational." And for tournament chair Fabio Belli, there will always be a need for a regional youth competitive soccer tournament.
"It's been my passion over the past 13 years," Belli said. "There's a part of me that wants to be involved in some way in soccer. It's a big loss if we just let it die."
The local businessman and city councillor was also pleased to integrate a couple of features that had not previously been part of the Panhellenic events, opening a U-8 "Festival" division and introducing the U-10 teams into the mix as well.
That's not to suggest he doesn't still have his thinking cap on, looking for more ways to improve the late July mainstay. "One thing I would like to see, on a consistent basis, is 100+ teams in the tournament," Belli said.
With the rep soccer tournament still alive and well in Greater Sudbury, dreams of future growth remain realistic. The field of 68 teams, including squads from Barrie, Sault Ste Marie, New Liskeard, Timmins, Bradford, Burlington, North Bay, Whitby, Kleinberg and Collingwood will begin play on Saturday, July 28th.
Action is taking place at three venues, with the James Jerome Sports Complex, the Howard Armstrong Sports Complex (Valley East) and Lasalle Secondary all playing host to games.