WINCHESTER – With the fields finally drying out, a new season and a new era is on the horizon for the North Dundas United Soccer Club (NDUSC).

Shortly after a full 11-member executive was elected, Julian Whittam, director of recreational soccer for NDUSC, could sense a change in the direction of youth soccer within North Dundas.

Spring has been late in arriving and registration for the 2018 season was equally delayed, but it was for good reason according to Whittam. For the past few years the organization had been running with a smaller than normal executive and when a few members announced that they would be stepping down because their children had graduated from the program, Whittam thought the timing and interest level were right for a reinvigorated approach to youth soccer.

Some of the youngest members of the North Dundas United Soccer Club. Courtesy photo

“This is a really good thing. The club has been doing quite well. Been running fairly well with a small executive, but we had only four people so we couldn’t really spread out the work,” said Whittam. “Interest was great and we managed to fill every position on the executive.”

The new executive members are John Palmer (president), Garth Elliott (vice-president), Bruce Henbest (secretary), Kim Elliott (treasurer), Brianne Scott (registrar), Matthew Roy (director of operations), Mark Jorgensen (director of competitive soccer), Julian Whittam (director of recreational soccer), Ashli Johnston (director of developmental soccer), Craig LeClair (director at large) and Erin VanGilst (director at large).

A renewed passion in the club wasn’t limited to the board positions. Parents were also providing excellent feedback on what kind of programs they wanted to see offered for youths and Whittam wanted to capitalize on that enthusiasm.

“The past few years we moved to a model that was focused on individual skill development small group activities. There weren’t a lot of games against each other, but parents said that the kids really liked the scrimmages. This put us on really good footing to grow the program going forward. We’re really interested in growing it to see what the community, parents, participants and players would like soccer to be in this area,” said Whittam. 

With a new executive that has every position filled, this year will mark a season of transition. NDUSC will continue to focus on individual skills, but offer more opportunities for scrimmages. Whittam is also adamant that parents and players provide as much feedback as possible to ensure that they are serving their needs. Currently, youth teams aren’t placed in competitive leagues, which allows registration fees to remain very affordable at $40 for the season and if you register four or more children you qualify for family rate of $150. The hope is that as players go through the program, NDUSC can develop a competitive program again and have teams playing in local leagues in the coming years.

Whittam has spent a lifetime playing soccer and knows the value of feedback in growing the game. It’s about more than just uniforms and games, it’s about giving North Dundas a sports program that reflects their values.

“The most important thing is that we really respond to the needs and wants of the community. We want to make sure we’re really offering what the local community is interested in. We’re very affordable and one of the reasons is because we have a good relationship with the township and we’re also offering a service. We feel soccer has a place in North Dundas. Based on the turnout for the executive, there are a lot of people that like what we’re doing and want to be a part of it,” he said.

Registration for all programs is now open online at www.ndusc.ca and they have focused their efforts on youth programs for children aged three to 13. Traditionally youths aged 14 and up have gone on to play for larger clubs around Russell, Kemptville and Ottawa South, but Whittam maintained, “If the demand is there, and if we have people in those age groups interested in playing and register with us, we can certainly run a program for them. Right now, we don’t have teams in those age groups registered in any competitive leagues, and at this point it would be too late to get a team into one of those leagues so the program would be skill development and fun. If we got enough interest in a U-15 or U-17 team from local players, we could do it next year if people wanted.”

There are also three adult teams, including a women’s team, men’s rec (division three) and an over-35 team. The cost for adult registration is $185.

For a list of programs, to volunteer or to send feedback to the club, visit their website or look for North Dundas United Soccer Club on Facebook. Parents can also talk to club conveners directly at practices to provide feedback.