Declining numbers in the Competitive Division has women’s soccer officials redefining rules so they can register more players next season.
There will now be Open and Masters categories with the North Okanagan Women’s Soccer Association hoping to attract more players of various skill levels.
The Competitive class, down to just five teams last season, will now welcome three players under 19 per team. The Masters Division, formerly for players 30 and older, will now welcome ladies 35 and up.
“There were limited opportunities for new players to enter the league,” said Katie Hatten, who plays for the AF Blazers in the Competitive category.
“As a result, the number of competitive teams has slowly decreased, and this division is at risk of becoming so small that is no longer feasible.
“Although the Masters Division is strong, it will also be at risk if the Competitive Division continues to decline, and there are insufficient players to eventually support the masters teams.”
Hatten says teams in the division are not balanced and many games are lop-sided. There will be Tier 1 and 2 Open Divisions next season. No slide tackling will be permitted in Tier 2.
“Older players do not want to play in a division which allows slide tackling and involves a more aggressive style of play. Some girls would see the word competitive and get scared of joining. There is no easy feeder system for young players who are leaving the Youth Soccer Association and looking for a women’s team to join.”
Hatten said new coaches and team reps are required to strengthen the Open Division.
Said Masters rep Kris Ponto, of the Okanagan Impact: “We would like to develop a structure which will build our association by promoting and encouraging new players who would not play in the current system due to age or skill level. We want to see new teams develop in all our divisions.”
The league will still mainly hold games on its traditional Tuesday nights, but there will likely be another night added to accommodate new teams and allow players to compete in both leagues. The Super 8 fun division, which ran Thursday nights last season, will keep running.
Any players with Rep or university/college experience have to play in the Open Division for at least five years before joining a lower tier. Players 35+ who haven’t played in some time are urged to sart with a Masters team.
Outdoor drop-in sessions ($5) will begin in early January and dates and times will be available on the group’s website at www.nowsa.webs.com.
If you are looking for a team to play for, e-mail the association at: NOWSAsoccer@gmail.com.
“We want to help every gal who wants to play get on a team,” said Ponto.
The Super 8 league is held on smaller fields and games are played at a moderate pace. Players must be 40 or older.
Masters players under 35 and currently registered with NOWSA, will be grandfathered in and eligible to play next season.