Soccer in the Comox Valley is more than just sport.
The slightly dewy grass is freshly cut, filling the air with the sweet smell of familiarity. The painted white lines are a stark contrast to the green pitch. Players prepare for the whistle to blow. The beautiful game is about to begin.
The sound of the referee’s whistle breaks the silence. The ball begins its journey around the pitch at the cleated feet of both teams. Ninety minutes to put the ball into the back of the net. Whether a competitive match or a kick around with friends, the feeling of beating the keeper is the same: exhilaration.
The Comox Valley embraces the game of soccer with a community-minded spirit that rivals any other in Canada. Beginning at five years of age, children meet each Saturday morning and run around in tightly knit swarms, chasing a ball that at first seems uncooperative. But each year that passes in a young soccer player’s life, confidence and understanding of the game brings newfound passion and connections.
Each spring and fall over 1000 youth players suit up in their team colours and work together to improve not only their soccer skills, but also their ability to play as a team and enjoy the experience and the sport.
To understand what these on-pitch relationships mean to our community at large, we need only look at a typical weekend when folding chairs, water bottles, and halftime snacks are hauled to the sidelines of fields across the Comox Valley. Both players and supporters bring a high level of enthusiasm that migrates with the kids and adults into their daily lives off the pitch. Friendships are forged with teammates and opponents, and many of those continue into later life. All of this is supported by an amazing group of parents and soccer enthusiasts who put thousands of hours into coaching and league management. Without this community of volunteers, none of this would be possible.
And kids are not the only ones getting out onto the field. The Comox Valley has a thriving adult soccer community. No matter what skill level or competitive drive, there is opportunity for people of all ages to join a soccer team. Playing team sports after moving into adulthood is an amazing way to connect with fellow Valley residents. Soccer brings people together in way that not many other sports do. The aptly named Comox Valley Sports and Social Club has shown that adults here love this game. With an average of 25 teams per season, the six-aside, outdoor soccer league brings people together one night a week to compete and make new friends.
Now that I am in my early 40s, I reflect back on my soccer life that began at age seven. It has not always been at the forefront of my sports life, but coming back to the game after years of individual sport, the team play that helped me become who I am today, was ready and waiting. When my cleats are laced up and the ball is at my feet, I look across the pitch at my options. Pass, run, dribble, and shoot. No matter what team I’m on, I know deep down that we are all on the same team. And that team is the community of the Comox Valley.