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Summer Games hopefuls work the pitch at Arrowview

It's going to be a tough job winnowing down this talented field
Some of the action at Arrowview school on the weekend

The pitches up at Arrowview Elementary School were busy Saturday, as some 250 boys and girls from Ladysmith north to Powell River took to the field for the Zone 6 BC Summer Games soccer tryouts.

Saturday was the second, and final, upper-Island regional tryout for young players hoping to represent Zone 6 (Vancouver Island-Central Coast) at the 2012 BC Summer Games.

The players were on the field for about 75 minutes, most of that spent playing, and baby it was cold outside.

“Freezing,” confirmed longtime Lower Island coach Andrew Latham, who steps in as head coach for the Zone 6 Boys team.

Latham had the lower field broken into three mini-fields running the width of the pitch, which made for plenty of action for he and the four other coaches.

“I like to watch players play,” he said. “I think the game is the best predictor of how they’ll do ... I think when you’re looking at young athletes you have to look at how they play, and as a coach you train to have an eye for a player, and you have to learn to trust your instincts.”

BC Summer Games soccer was opened up to U11 players this year for the first time.

Latham had five evaluators at each session and six or seven, “all certified coaches” in Mill Bay on Sunday when over 100 boys turned out for south Island’s final regional tryout.

The players in attendance were all born in either 2000 or 2001, and, as evident by the determination on their faces, the tryouts were a big deal for them.

“And now we will select 30 boys and 30 girls from those two (North Island) evaluations and we’ll do some more evaluations in March. And then we have to drop down to 14 players total for the Summer Games,” explained Latham, adding fewer than 10 per cent of the players will make the team.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult to make these selections,” he surmised honestly. “Great enthusiasm, and great attitude ... it’s going to be hard enough to go down to 30 never mind the final selection. We were very impressed by the skill level and their approach to the process.”

Latham said they will be posting the selections on the Lower Island soccer website on Friday.

“That’s incredible to have that many kids come out,” Oceanside’s Larry Stefanek confirmed Sunday.

The longtime local teacher/coach was in his element helping Latham assess the players, and made the point he wasn’t all that surprised by the large turnout. Two years ago he coached the BC Summer Games Zone 6 girls team “and we had about 70 girls come out to the North Island tryouts. The numbers have gone up, and yeah, that’s good for the sake of the game.”

Stefanek has been involved with youth soccer for the past 20 years and he said the graph “looks great. In terms of how much our players have evolved. I mean they’re just such better athletes and better soccer players.”

The 2012 BC Summer Games are in Surrey July 19-22, with soccer slated for Newton Athletic Park.