The Mid-Isle Soccer Club has kicked off a new season in style, with close to 400 kids registered and more players than ever advancing to premier league competition.
Mid-Isle Soccer Club vice-president Mike Rankin said the 23 players that have gone on to play with the Upper Island Storm in the Vancouver Island Premier League (VIPL) is the most ever from the Mid-Isle club, with probably another 20 from Nanaimo who previously played for the Mid-Isle Highlanders in the Upper Island Soccer Association (UISA).
“When Willow Hartig became president of the club that was one of her priorities, to establish a competitive track. We’d never had it before,” said Rankin, adding that in his nine years of coaching with the club, he was never aware there was a venue for youth soccer beyond house league.
The VIPL features both boys and girls teams in divisions from U14 to U18, with the Upper Island storm drawing players from clubs in Mid-Isle, Oceanside, Harbour City, Gabriola and Alberni Valley.
He said the executive sees the responsibility of the club as making the game accessible to everybody who wants to play as well as provide opportunity for skill development.
“Two things that we did to help develop players was to bring Bill Merriman in as our technical director to run our Monday night club development sessions. We’ve seen in the last three years that has accounted for rapid development in the quality of the soccer players from this club. We’ve sort of caught up to everybody else now,” said Rankin, adding the other developmental tool was starting the UISA Tier-3 teams.
The club currently boasts close to 400 members and one of the major projects for the coming year is to establish a field house to store equipment at Forrest Field.
“It’s like a shipping container from the High Street ballpark community garden. That has been offered to us if we pay to move it to Forrest Field.”
Rankin said the club currently uses the attic of the Festival of Lights building to house equipment in the off-season.
He said the club contributed about $100,000 to the turf field and is looking to begin fundraising for a proper clubhouse at Forrest Field.
“We’re going to try and start doing some fundraising at some point this year,” said Rankin. “ The only way to see it going forward is in partnership with the town. That will be our next push.”