The outdoor soccer season is underway, and registrations for Sylvan Lake Blizzard Soccer Club are up once again.
About 530 players are registered with the club, and make up about 50 teams playing both competitively and in the club’s house league.
“Our numbers are actually stronger than last year again, and they continue to go up year after year,” said club president Dave Brand.
Of the club’s teams, seven play competitively in Central Alberta Soccer Association (CASA) leagues, and travel to various towns in Central Alberta for games.
For the first time in several years, the club has been able to field a boys team in the under-18 division. An under-10 team is also playing competitively.
“That’s really good exposure for them, because they’re the ones that are going to be playing as they become teenagers.”
Brand said numbers generally taper as players get older, as they take jobs and other commitments. Having an under-18 team in town, he feels, is indicative of the sport’s growing popularity.
“As they get older, they decide whether they like it or not, and they get more serious about it,” he said. “Once they get to that 10 or 12 age, they start deciding whether or not they want to play on a travel team.”
Player development programs are offered by the club, run by technical coaches from CASA and Alberta Soccer Association.
The club’s outdoor soccer season began the first week of May, and will run until the end of June. Competitive teams may play a longer season, if they make it to provincials.
Registration closed earlier this month, and had been open since March. Brand said early registration is encouraged each season, although he feels many people are reluctant to think about outdoor sports while there’s still snow on the ground.
The club seeks sponsors every season, and often receives strong support from businesses in the community.
“Sponsorship is a huge thing for us. We’ve got several businesses throughout town that consistently year after year come back,” said Brand. “(Sponsorship) helps offset some of the costs, and it helps us to try and keep our fees as low as possible.”
In return for supporting the club, sponsors may have a team named after them, and have their logos displayed on jerseys.
Sylvan Lake Blizzard Soccer Club is run entirely by volunteers, whom Brand described as being “the lifeblood” of the organization.
“They’re just excellent. From our photos to our year-end tournament to our setting up schedules to making sure that the kids get their jerseys — all that stuff is done by volunteers.
“It’s a lot of commitment, but it really pays off.”
Brand said the number of volunteer has grown steadily in the past several years.
Team schedules for both house league and travel teams are available online at www.sylvanlakesoccer.ca. Contacts for volunteer and sponsorship opportunities are also available on the club’s website.