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Soccer sensation

Andrew Rankin
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 17, 2010

INUVIK - Six-year-old Kiersten Rogers doesn't just have one best friend among the 32 soccer players she tangles with twice a week at Sir Alexander Mackenzie School.

There are too many to count.

"Everybody here is my best friend," said the young athlete.

NNSL photo/graphic

Members of the Delta Sparks gather for a group shot after some hard-fought battles on June 10. - Andrew Rankin/NNSL photos

Besides offering an opportunity to refine her basic skills, soccer nights allow her the chance to practise the art of the behind-the-back flick, which she has no problem demonstrating without the ball, of course. Rogers can also score goals too, but not a lot, she admits.

Since May 18, soccer fanatics from kindergarten to Grade 2, known as the Delta Sparks, have been playing good natured, but intense, one-and-a-half hour matches Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The action ends today, June 17.

Coaches and program organizers Sally Ross and Denise Ritias-Voudrach, along with student volunteers from Samuel Hearne Secondary School, referee and assist in the soccer drill practices.

Ross and Ritias-Voudrach said they wanted to reach out to younger kids after coaching older youths over the years.

"It's a nice change," said Ritias-Voudrach. "Soccer is such an easy program to learn and to teach to young children and it's well known in the Delta. We want to carry on the tradition."

She said the emphasis is on skills development and fair play, though sometimes the competitive spirit emerges.

"You can tell that they're enjoying it and having fun. They get a little competitive. You get to see who the competitive students are."

The coaches were also able to get support from staff at Sir Alexander Mackenzie and find funding through the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, the NWT Council of Sport and Recreation and the NWT Soccer Association for equipment such as soccer balls and uniforms.

They're hoping to expand the program next year.

Maegan Weitzel, 7, loves her baby blue uniform. It's the colour of the sky, she said.

Having Ross and Ritias-Voudrach as coaches is also a plus, she said.

"They're really nice to us," said Weitzel. "When we fall down they speak really softly to us. Yeah, they're really nice."

We welcome your opinions on this story. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.