The annual Sam Steele Days youth soccer tournament was a roaring success, with 66 teams, some coming from as far as Calgary, Lethbridge, Airdrie and Okotoks, as well as BC teams coming from Creston, Nelson, Fernie, Golden and Kootenay South, competing throughout the course of the weekend.
Several teams from Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association (KEYSA) took home medals: the U18 boys and the U16 girls both won gold medals, the U16 boys and U14 boys won silver and the U14 girls brought home a bronze.
Marcie Peters is on the board at KEYSA and has organized the Sam Steele Days youth soccer tournament for the past three years. Her own children first started playing the game over ten years ago, during which time the landscape for soccer in Cranbrook looked a little different.
She says there was the competitive REP side as well as the Cranbrook house league and the tournament was still nicely done, albeit much smaller than it is today.
“It was very small,” Peters says. “It only had the older kids play. So they didn’t incorporate the younger kids. Then eventually they did add what they called a jamboree at the time so that became a different weekend where they would have the little guys come and play for one day.”
She says that when she decided to help out and come on board, they changed how things worked by putting both leagues under the same KEYSA umbrella and expanded the tournament itself.
“We changed it to a full U10 to U18 soccer tournament for the kids where we have the U10s to 12s play down at Mount Baker high school on four fields and then we have the U13s to the U18s play on all the fields at Moir Park,” Peters explains.
Peters stated that this year’s tournament went really well, saying, “I got lots of positive reviews, everyone seemed very happy, they loved the fields and the location. They all enjoyed their games and kids were smiling and having fun.”
A lot of planning and volunteer effort is required to facilitate a tournament of this magnitude; Peters says she Nicole Fulton, her co-chair at KEYSA who runs Baker field with the younger players, get together as early as January to commence their strategizing process. By the end of February the teams are put together and they start bringing in parent volunteers. Each KEYSA division has two parent volunteers who are required to come to meetings so that they can then relay all of that information to their teams. Finally, all of the parents within the association are scheduled and tasked with various duties to make sure the tournament is a success. Peters says she is very grateful to everyone who came out to lend a helping hand.
“The tournament was great this year. It was actually really nice because we were close to the main fairgrounds so all of our out-of-town guests were really excited that they could go over and be part of the whole Sam Steele days because were were so close. And I think that we had people from the Rec Alex being able to come over and join into the tournaments as well and come and see some of our soccer.”
Fulton said that within the youth division they saw their U10 girls and U12 boys win bronze while the U12 girls snagged a silver medal.
As organizers they try to make sure they learn from theirs and other tournaments around the region in order to integrate changes and make adjustments for the following year’s.
“We try to pick up little tricks and things that other tournaments that we attend do as well,” says Peters. “For instance we have these new signs we did this year that kind of say ‘let the coaches coach, parents just enjoy the games and it’s not the World Cup’ kind of thing.”
Peters says that at next year’s tournament she would like to start earlier if possible, get more advertising out in order to attract more teams into it, and trying to drum up more support from local business through donations.