By Ottawa Sportspage, For Ottawa Footy For All
Ottawa Footy For All is set to kick off Season 2 of their fun-filled youth soccer programs with an expanded lineup available at their home Immaculata High School facility on Main St.
The offerings include Spring Developmental Sessions for boys and girls age 3-7 on Wednesday evenings, and Saturday morning Spring/Summer Recreational Leagues for age 4-9.
Behind the programs is the Ottawa Footy Sevens group that’s become synonymous with high-quality adult leagues locally. Ottawa Footy’s motivation to provide youth soccer opportunities comes in response to the rapid rise in participation costs that’s made sport inaccessible to some.
“A lot of people can’t afford it, especially newcomers who are just grounding themselves,” signals Director of Operations Dan Popowych. “This country is rich in people who come from other parts of the world where soccer is king, and we need to utilize that in order to sort of build a greater society.”
Using soccer as an integration tool was something Popowych learned in his own youth. Popowych’s family moved frequently since his father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force, so joining the local soccer team was a way to connect with their new community.
“That’s how I made friends growing up,” highlights the Gloucester Hornets product who went on to win an Ontario title with the Carleton University Ravens. “It’s such a benefit to have more people be able to access the sport, but it’s not something that’s only affordable – we play at a really great facility, on a turf field with lights, proper nets, proper equipment, sharp-looking uniforms, and we’ve got excellent coaching.”
‘SHARK ATTACK!!’ Goofiness & laughs key to inspiring passion for soccer, say energetic and experienced Footy coaches
Though Popowych and his coaching counterparts have won high-level provincial and national titles, Ottawa Footy has no desire to form competitive soccer teams – talented players will be encouraged to join leading local clubs. Fun is the name of the game, and that’s a guarantee with Popowych’s energy on the pitch.
“It’s about finding ways to ignite their enthusiasm, because with young children, you can lose their attention like that,” he explains. “So let’s say I want them to dribble a bit and then shoot on net. It’s not enough to say, ‘OK, Coach Dan wants you to do this drill.’
“So what I’ll do is I’ll get out a big shark hat, and I’ll tell the kids, ‘When I yell, ‘SHARK ATTACK!’, you’ve got to get over to a safety boat (which is the net) and you’ve got to put your life preserver (which is the ball) into the boat, and then after, you’ve got to hide behind the safety nets.
“It’s so awesome to see them with a huge smile, like, ‘Oh my goodness, shark is coming after me!’ Yes, we are working on developing their skills, but really what it’s all about is making sure the kid goes away smiling.”
Pirate costumes, chocolate coins and grizzly bear masks are other favourites in Popowych’s props collection. The inspiration for the eclectic bag of tricks comes from his own father.
“When I started playing, my dad had to figure out a way to get me to listen to him. So here’s this Air Force general running around in some ridiculous costume, yelling, ‘I’m gonna eat you!’,” recounts Popowych, who now spends his days sharing his passion for soccer with others.
“I want to get the kids active and healthy and away from screens, and socializing and meeting new friends,” he adds. “I want to make them fall in love with the sport like I did.”
Once a week schedule. Same time, same place. Convenient, central location. Simple online sign-up. Register now at ottawa.footyforall.ca