A red warning flag is being raised for Champlain minor sports and most urgently, for the minor soccer program.

The co-ed Vankleek Hill co-ed minor soccer organization needs coaches and especially, volunteers, to help run the 2018 program. If you are interested, you can email: [email protected] to offer your help.

According to Lisa Burroughs, Director of Parks and Recreation for Champlain Township, this year is a transitional year for Champlain minor soccer. Organized in previous years by volunteers, Burroughs says that the soccer program is being organized this year only by the municipality and that organizing volunteers are needed for next year.

But, she adds, if no coaches come forward for the 2018 soccer season, the entire soccer program will be cancelled. If the average 150 youths register for the soccer program, that means about 16 teams will be formed, so that 32 volunteer coaches, or two per team, are needed. Referees are needed too, she says, or the soccer program will not happen.

The back story

Champlain Minor Sports was originally organized by local parents to organize minor sports, Burroughs says. While the municipality was involved to a point, by storing equipment and staying up to date with what was happening by having its recreation director as a member of the association, that changed. When a volunteer shortage hit, the recreation director at that time stepped in on a volunteer basis several years ago.

“Janis Renwick did a lot as a volunteer, but because she was recreation director at the time, I think people thought the municipality was doing it. But that was not the case. She was volunteering her time,” Burroughs explained.

In recent years, Champlain Minor Sports has become an organization which assists parents who could not otherwise afford to register their children in minor sports. So that has changed, too, Burroughs said.

To Burroughs, it feels as if a wave of volunteer parents has moved on because their children have grown up and no new wave of volunteers has stepped up to replace them for activities like soccer and T-ball. T-ball takes place during July and August and although registration numbers are lower for that sport, volunteers and coaches are also needed, or that program, too, will not proceed. And that’s just for this year. If no organizers come forward to run the program in 2019, T-ball will come to a permanent end in Champlain Township.

Why is there a volunteer shortage?

Burroughs can’t say for sure why there are fewer parent volunteers stepping forward, but she is guessing that additional activities for kids, an extended hockey season and households where there are two full-time working parents have had an effect.

“There are dance classes, spring hockey sessions, 4-H and a variety of sports now. It could be that kids are just too busy,” Burroughs conjectured.

She also pointed out that service clubs like the Optimist Club used to be involved in minor sports. And participation in this type of club has also diminished.

Another factor which might be affecting volunteering is that in some cases, parents’ expectations of sports activities for their kids has changed and that, in turn, has changed the requirements for volunteers.

“It’s a fun league when it is just the three or four-year-olds. But as kids get older, I feel that parents are looking for more structured sports activities. They want training and skills sessions and they want things more competitive. Sometimes, this can lead to more rules, more regimented training and more requirements for volunteers. I’m not saying it’s not good, but it means a bigger commitment from volunteers to take the training and there might be more responsibility,” Burroughs said. “Maybe that discourages potential volunteers.”

Burroughs says that the township is there to support organized sports, but that it is a big burden for the township to organize all minor sports.

“If we take on soccer and T-ball, then we might be looking at hockey, too.”

“It is up to parents to organize not-for-profit organizations and the sports activities that could go with that,” she said.

Soccer registration

Registration for recreational co-ed minor soccer for the 2018 season will take place in the lobby at the Vankleek Hill Community Centre on Tuesday, March 20, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on March 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Completed forms and payments can be dropped off at the community centre, located at 36 Mill Street in Vankleek Hill at any time.

Soccer is open to boys and girls born between January 1, 2014 and December 3, 2005. The cost is  $40 per child. After April 5, there is a $60 late fee (no exceptions).

The program includes nine weeks of soccer and a team jersey. Games will take place on Wednesday evenings. Age groups will be created based on the number of registered children. And a reminder: the program cannot go ahead at all if volunteers do not come forward to act as coaches and referees.