Coach Ken Griffin and the West Coast United U11 soccer team went undefeated in regular season. Although they played at their final Mini World Cup this weekend, many of the players will move up to play in the Port Alberni Rep League. (Ornella Cirella Photo)

Coach Ken Griffin and the West Coast United U11 soccer team went undefeated in regular season. Although they played at their final Mini World Cup this weekend, many of the players will move up to play in the Port Alberni Rep League. (Ornella Cirella Photo)

West Coast kids take on Mini World Cup

“For the amount of kids that we get out here, it’s amazing the level of skill the Coast team has.”

Over 30 Tofino and Ucluelet youth travelled to Qualicum Beach on May 4-5 for the Mini World Cup, a children’s version of World Cup soccer.

The annual Vancouver Island soccer tournament rotates host communities every year, and features two-days of games and festivities. This year, about 1,200 players between 7-10 years old laced up for the sporting event.

Tofino and Ucluelet sent three teams: West Coast United U11 coached by Ken Griffin, Ucluelet U9 team coached by Dennis Morgan, and Tofino U9 team coached by Jesse Betman.

Coach Griffin said his team played unbelievable, finishing the tournament with two victories, one tie, and one loss.

“It’s just amazing to see how far they’ve come. To see the level of the play improve and how they’ve gelled as a team and become friends. They’re just a really good group of kids,” said Griffin, who has coached West Coast soccer for the last 15 years. He said their final game against Comox was their only loss of the entire season.

“For the amount of kids that we get out here, it’s amazing the level of skill the West Coast team has. We have to compete against communities with a lot of players. They get to build teams, you know, choose their best players and put them on the team,” Griffin said, adding that the development for the West Coast is getting better.

Morgan, Ucluelet’s U9 coach, reiterated.

“It blows me away how, over the course of just two days, you can see so much improvement,” said Morgan.

Soccer mom Jodeyn Grills thought the Tofino and Ucluelet players did even better than last year. Her son Noah, 10, scored about four goals per game.

“Ken Griffin runs a well-oiled machine,” she said. “There were amazing set-ups from all players. The defense was amazing as was the goaltending. Every position was well covered.”

Ornella Cirella, president of the West Coast Soccer Association, has been watching the West Coast United U11 kids kick the ball around since they were toddlers.

“They kicked it up a notch with their teamwork. You can tell they are really getting better,” said Cirella.

Her youngest son Rafaelo Nixon alongside all his U11 teammates played in their final Mini World Cup.

“It was sad for all of us parents actually. Most of those kids have tried out for the rep team in Port Alberni, which means next season, if they make the team, they will be playing on a local West Coast team but they will also play on a rep team in Port Alberni.”

Cirella went on to say that she is actively looking for a new U9 head coach to start in September.

“They just need to be willing to hang out with kids. They don’t need to have soccer skills. There are lots of coaches that can help,” said Cirella.

Griffin concurred.

“Keep it fun and the skills will come later,” he said.

Anyone interested in coaching youth soccer is encouraged to contact Cirella at: ocirella@gmail.com.

READ MORE: Pacific Football Club takes shape in Tofino

READ MORE: Tofino and Ucluelet host youth soccer tournament

READ MORE: Heading soccer balls can cause damage to brain cells: UBC Study

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