Bonnyville hosted its third and possibly most popular soccer tournament of the season this past Saturday, as over 400 players making up 33 teams took part in the annual Mini-Wetlands tournament.
Unlike at older age levels, scores and results at the Mini-Wetlands tournament are not kept and instead all participants at the U6, U8 and U10 levels receive participatory gold medals.
Bonnyville Soccer Association (BSA) tournament director Jeff Ryll said it was a near-perfect day of soccer at the Wetlands Fields Saturday.
“Although rain threatened to dampen the fun of the tournament, the cloudy weather actually made for nice playing conditions for the kids,” he said. “Only a slight shower late in the day kept it from being a perfect day for soccer.”
Ryll explained the premise of this “fun” tournament.
“As the spirit of the tournament is fun, we do not keep track of the scores or which teams win or lose,” he said. “At the end of the tournament, each participant receives a gold medal for all of the hard work they put in during the day. For many kids, this is the first time that they have attended a tournament so it makes for a very exciting day.”
Ryll said you can see how much fun kids have during the tournament, but there is also room for skill development.
In the U6 and U8 divisions, there are six players to a side and no goalies. Coaches are also encouraged to help players during game play. Ryll said this encourages players to learn the basics and experience success.
At the U10 level, the field is larger and a goalie is added to each team. A referee also takes part, providing guidance as well as enforcing more rules.
“What I enjoy about this tournament is that you can actually see how a team or individual child progresses throughout the day,” said Ryll.
“We play games during the season, but they usually last about 45 minutes and although the kids do pick up a lot, nothing can beat a full day of soccer to help development.”
He added, “It is very satisfying as a coach to see a kid score their first goal or even to learn the difference between offence and defense. All it takes is for one good play followed by the cheering of all the parents on the sideline to encourage the kids to try harder the next time that they are out on the field.”
Ryll said this has been a very successful season of Wetlands tournaments, thanks in large part to the volunteers.
“I would again like to thank the members of the BSA board, all the coaches and parent volunteers and the numerous businesses that donated to this year's tournaments. We were able to hold three very successful tournaments this year and would not have been able to without all the help and hard work.”