A running track and soccer field in Fort Smith in June 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Starting this fall, Fort Smith will have a year-round soccer club. The coaches now hope enough players register to allow a winter full of games.
One of the challenges of playing soccer in the Northwest Territories is finding opponents to play when communities are many hours’ travel apart.
Mike Herring, founder and head coach of Fort Smith’s new club, says he is aiming for 50 to 60 kids to sign up.
“If we have enough players,” he told Cabin Radio, “we can set up teams so that we can have games on the weekends throughout the winter.”
As a child in the United States, Herring says he played soccer in a nationwide youth initiative known as the Olympic Development Program.
In Fort Smith, he is joined by fellow coaches Farrah Freund and Mac-Jordan H Degadjor. Freund represented Team NT at the Canada Summer Games in 2005 and North American Indigenous Games a year later, while Degadjor says he played soccer at a high level in Ghana before his move to Canada.
Herring is excited to operate a club that remains accessible to Fort Smith children “for the entire year.”
“Playing for a short amount of time, like a month or two, and then stopping and waiting until it gets warm again, they lose out on skills training and fundamentals,” he said.
To avoid that, the club will use Fort Smith’s recreation centre from October 19 to March 15, then move outside once the snow melts.
With help from YK Galaxy Soccer Academy head coach Dillon Torindo, Herring says he has been able to source equipment for the club. Each registered player will be provided with shin pads, socks, jerseys, and other necessary equipment.
The club will launch with U6, U9 and U13 teams. Herring says there has also been interest in a league for U16 and U18 players, a concept he hopes to explore in the near future.
For now, he wants to start Fort Smith on the path to becoming a soccer hub.
“I want Fort Smith to really be able to help the kids that have the skills, that are ready to move up in high-performance teams, and start feeding into teams for the Arctic Winter Games and whatnot,” he said.
“Our motto is practice makes permanent – the more you practise, it becomes muscle memory, like brushing your teeth in the morning.”
He added that his club will place emphasis on the “sportsmanship piece.”
“We treat each other with respect, we include everyone no matter their abilities, and everyone is on good behaviour,” he said.