As soccer's popularity in Squamish has exploded, a local league is determined to create a new women's division.
According to figures provided by the treasurer of the Howe Sound Soccer League, enrolment has increased by 100%.
Michael Heinrich said 75 players are returning from the previous season and an additional 75 new players have signed on this time around."I think COVID certainly played a part," said Heinrich. "Everyone was sick and tired of being stuck inside. I think soccer in Squamish is a bit of a sleeping dog."
This season, the league has redoubled its efforts on recruitment, revamping its website and increasing its signage and advertising.At the same time, there are also ambitions to create a new adult female division. Currently, women have the option of playing in local leagues up to age 18 and over 30, said Heinrich.
However, that leaves a gaping hole for women in their late teens or twenties.
The Howe Sound Soccer League is hoping to fix this problem and is now making a major call-out for registrations, hoping to boost sign-ups from women to the point where such a division is possible.This may involve a hybrid of Whistler and Squamish teams.
There is also a new upcoming summer co-ed league set to start in 2022. Sign-ups for that are also now underway.In the meantime, the league just started its winter break, marking the season's halfway point. Play will resume on Feb. 13.
Jose Oreamuno, the president of the league, said while he would not name a favourite team, there's one thing that piques his attention."I'm always going for the underdog," said Oreamuno, who also referees matches in the local league.
StandingsSo far, the standings show that B&B Excavating FC is leading the way with eight wins and two losses.
In second is Rushant Gunners FC, with seven wins and three losses.Coming in third is Galileo FC, with six wins and four losses.
Oreamuno said that this season has so far been a nail-biter.In some seasons, it's very clear which teams are dominant. But, this season, it has been harder to call who might make it to the top.
"It's so even now that anybody can beat anybody," he said.The recent surge in the sport's popularity has resulted in the creation of new teams this season, the Squamish FC and the Howe Sound FC. The latter entered the season late and has yet to play a game.
In the meantime, Oreamuno said the Squamish FC's performance so far has made them one to watch."That team being new, and the players didn't know each other, it's unbelievable," he said. "The other day, I had to referee the game, and I'm telling you there is so much potential in that team. But because of bad luck and stuff like that, they are not doing great in scoring or winning games, but the potential is there for this team."
One player is so dedicated to the sport, Oreamuno said, that immediately after finding a job in Squamish, his second priority was finding a place to play soccer."Priorities, eh?" he said with a laugh. "I was so impressed by this new team, and I would love to see this team go extra, just to show us what is possible."
As a referee, Oreamuno said he appreciates players who give it their all, don't complain and trust the referee to protect them when needed.The league's female players have also made a great impression on him.
Though it aims to create a woman's division in the near future, the Howe Sound Soccer League has accepted four women into the men's division in the meantime."They are awesome," said Oreamuno
"They are tough like any other player and you don't see any difference…they play awesome soccer…It opens a lot of doors for [women]."The league is still looking for new players.
Those interested in the current men's, women's and summer divisions can sign up by going to https://www.howesoundsoccer.com/ and clicking the registration button on the home page.