Yukon, Yellowknife soccer teams collide in Whitehorse
After more than a year of what amounted to closed borders, the Yukon soccer community was abuzz earlier this month when three youth teams from Yellowknife made the trip to Whitehorse for a series of games.
The Yellowknife Galaxy soccer club sent U13, U15 and U17 boys sides to play a series of games at F.H. Collins Secondary School from Aug. 5 to 8.
The Galaxy teams faced off against a variety of Yukon teams, including Whitehorse United FC’s U13 boys teams, girls team, and U15 boys team; the Yukon Canada Summer Games Boys team; a ladies select team; and two men’s teams.
Tyler Milton, head coach for Whitehorse United, said the weekend was a success.
“Everybody seemed to have a really good time – there was lots of good feedback,” Milton said. “(The Yellowknife teams) were really happy they came and it was great to play games again. Obviously we haven’t played a team from outside the territory in almost two years now, so it’s really great to get games in.”
While the youth teams have been training throughout most of the pandemic, nothing beats the game experience.
“Games are why you train. You do things in practice so you can get ot the game and perform better in the game,” Milton said, adding that Yukon teams already typically play fewer games due to geography. “Obviously nobody has been able to play games for the past year, so that’s been a challenge for sure. It’s really, really important that kids get to experience games.”
With such a large gap since meaningful, competitive soccer for most players, Milton said the quality was a pleasant surprise.
“One of the positives I took out of it is everybody was trying to play nice soccer,” he said. “Everybody was trying to pass the ball on the ground and play soccer the ‘proper’ way, I guess you could say, which was a little bit surprising given they haven’t played games in so long.”
The artifical turf facility at F.H. Collins has been in use for a year, but due to COVID-19 was used to host an Outside team for the very first time – something Milton said will not be the last.
“It’s such a great facility and it allows us to host events instead of always travelling,” Milton explained. “It’s really great to be able to say, ‘We’ve got this great facility – why don’t you come up and play here,’ instead of us always going down south and playing teams there. It opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for us, just like the Canada Games Centre did for hosting events.”
The field has also paid dividends locally by extending the outdoor season for teams, allowing play to begin earlier and finish later by removing the need to wait for thaws and worries around sod damage.