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Space, regulations biggest hurdles to indoor soccer season

Ponoka players may be able to join ‘mini-leagues’

Ponoka soccer players may be able to participate in an indoor season this fall and winter, although it would come with many added regulations and involve a lot of travel.

“There are some possibilities for an indoor season, but it would be heavily regulated,” said Ponoka Minor Soccer Association (PMSA) president Rob McArthur in a phone interview Sept. 8.

Regulations include capped numbers for particular cohorts to limit cross contact between athletes and participants, symptom screening, and other precautions designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Our biggest hindrance is facilities,” he said.

For six to seven years, Ponoka’s indoor teams have been running out of school gymnasiums, but now during COVID-19, when no outside users are allowed in schools, McArthur says PMSA is “up the creek.”

In a letter to soccer families, McArthur explained that other central Alberta soccer associations are facing the same predicament.

“Every soccer association within central Alberta has extremely limited availability of space for play due to the prohibition of school space.”

PMSA operates under the governing body of Central Alberta Soccer Association (CASA).

McArthur says CASA has been “working tirelessly to come up with solutions that would be equally beneficial to everyone.”

Currently, the possibility of mini-leagues is being looked at. The mini-leagues would run out of Camrose, Red Deer, and maybe even Millet, and would start in late November.

Under that format, Ponoka teams would travel every Saturday, for limited training time and games.

The mini-leagues would follow strict Alberta Health Services protocols regarding cohorts and health checklists.

Due to limited space, these leagues would only be open to U11, U13, U15 and U17 age groups.

“Our hope is that by the new year, regulations will have loosened allowing us back into school where we could potentially run shortened seasons for our U7 and U9 age groups.”

PMSA typically runs a spring season and fall/winter indoor season, although the spring season was cancelled, and the association decided against trying to hold a shortened summer season.

A post on their Facebook page stated, “Our programming, our volunteer base, and our coaches are simply not prepared to run an altered season at a wholly different time of year.”

Ponoka has put together teams for an indoor season for the past 10 years.

The fall/winter season is under Central Alberta Youth Soccer League-Indoor (CAYSLI) in cooperation with the Red Deer City Soccer Association (RDCSA) and CASA.

As the indoor soccer facility in Camrose is the only one in Ponoka’s area, the indoor season is run in coordination with Red Deer, as Red Deer has a few facilities, including the Collicutt Centre.

READ MORE: ‘World-class’ multi-sport facility is in Ponoka’s back yard

Last year, about 85 to 90 Ponoka players from U7 to U17 participated in the indoor season, and McArthur says it keeps growing each year.

“What our association is doing now is gauging the interest in participating in these mini-leagues,” said McArthur.

A pay-later registration is opening this Friday, Sept. 11 at www.ponokasoccer.ca. There will be no upfront payment, and all interested players are asked to register.

“We need an accurate picture of who we have available to play and coach before we can commit teams to this new regulated structure and format.”

For more information, email president@ponokasoccer.ca.

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