Sports

Richmond FC taking soccer indoors

By Don Fennell

Published 11:17 PST, Fri November 15, 2019

Last Updated: 10:58 PST, Tue December 3, 2019

The tradition of standing on the sidelines with a hot Tims while the rain belts down will continue for years to come. But for parents who can't get their kids out to Richmond FC Saturday soccer games, a new–and warmer–option has just been initiated.

Sunday Night Soccer has debuted with the launch of the Richmond Indoor Soccer League, an initiative to open soccer up to families with low incomes, scheduling conflicts, and a lack of interest in away games played in distant locations.

The pilot season is open to kids aged U13 to U16, with plans for an expansion to other age groups in the spring.

“We know a lot of the kids in Richmond, whenever we do an open house, flock to soccer,” says Richmond FC chair Rein Weber. “We see it all the time, but actually playing and training for a full season can be a bit of a time and money commitment that not everyone can manage.”

So, rather than asking the kids to come to Richmond FC, Richmond FC is coming to the kids.

“There are a lot of outdoor soccer facilities in the west, but kids in the City Centre and Cambie areas don't have it so easy, so we're scheduling games at elementary schools near where they live,” says Weber.

Richmond FC’s Chris Parry adds “It’s a work in progress.”

“We pushed the start date back a little because, as a new program, we have to tweak things as we go based on feedback from potential players,” he explains. “Every week over the last month we’ve experimented with structure, targeted new demographics, and played with ways to reach new audiences.”

The idea of playing on Sunday nights was intended to attract more kids who don’t play currently. But those kids are proving harder to reach that existing players, Parry says. As a result, Richmond FC is in engaging different marketing options to reach them.

“We also found older age groups were less responsive, mostly because they have stacked schedules with other activities such as school and jobs.”

One particularly positive trend is that more girls are signing up than expected. Parry says Richmond FC is also considering letting the U5s and u p have some indoor time during the colder months.

“We also found local schools (to be) really receptive, so there may be a benefit to collaborating and making it a school program at some point,” he says.

Kids signing up are “drafted” to teams in their local areas. These areas are represented by the Terra Nova Terrors, Minoru Mariners, Seafair Stingers, Cambie Highwaymen, King George Royals and the Ironwood Inferno, and play Sunday evenings starting at 5 p.m.

“We tried to get things happening in Hamilton and Southeast Richmond so we could be truly a crosstown league, but there wasn't venue availability this time around,” says Weber. “As this league fills up and we see where the growth points are, we'll add more venues and teams. Ultimately we want every kid in Richmond to see Sunday night soccer as a highlight of their week.”

For now, the door is open for kids aged 12 to 15. The $50 registration fee covers BC Soccer insurance, venue costs, referees, and a team shirt. Games are scheduled at Wowk, Quilchena, Talmey, McKay and Mitchell elementary schools.

Though Sunday nights may not appeal to every family, Weber feels there are plenty who'll be ecstatic for the chance to play at a time with no other conflicts.

“As kids get older, they may need Sunday nights for school and work, so we're starting in what we feel is our sweet spot,” says Weber. “We know a lot of kids can't play outdoor soccer because they go to tutoring on Saturdays, and some train with local academy teams instead of playing in games for that reason. We wanted to give those kids a way to join us, and be a part of our Richmond soccer family.”

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