Years of gradual ascendency has landed Okotoks United Soccer Club a new benchmark.
The Okotoks United U12 Boys made association history last week when they became the first Okotoks squad to take home a Tier I regular season championship in the Calgary Minor Soccer Association.
“It’s a real coup for the club,” said Okotoks United U12 coach Matt Lumsden. “It goes to show the coaching in our academy programs is there at the club to develop players that can compete at that level.
“With our new facility we have (Crescent Point Field House in Aldersyde) we’re making the most of it and it shows those around the edges of Okotoks, even those in Calgary, that Okotoks does have a strong soccer program.”
The championship went to the side with the best record in the regular season – as is the custom in eminent soccer leagues around the world including Spain’s La Liga and Great Britain’s Premier League.
Okotoks finished five points clear of its nearest competitor with a 9-1 record and +33 goal differential.
Needing a win to lock up top spot in the final weekend, Okotoks put an exclamation point on the league crown in a 9-1 romp over the SWU Selects.
“It’s about the team ethic and team culture that we’ve tried to inspire into the kids,” said Lumsden. “It’s not about individuals, it’s about the team. If you work hard for the team and play the right way and enjoy the soccer you’re playing then success is just a by-product.
“Really, it was a team effort. It’s a good team dynamic and it certainly shows on the field.”
The squad has come about its teamwork honestly.
The core group of players have six seasons on the pitch together in both indoor and outdoor soccer and worked their way up the ranks to a Division I team for 2016.
“The team has basically been together in Okotoks since U6 and have played through our recreational programs together,” Lumsden said.
“They started in Calgary Minor Soccer together, worked really hard as a team and managed to work through to Division I in Calgary.”
The top division is a veritable southern Alberta league pitting the top teams from Lethbridge to the Stampede City.
Following up on a strong season of indoor soccer in which the club finished third in the top division, Okotoks reached the summit in the traditional outdoor version of the world’s game.
“In the outdoor season they’ve gone from strength to strength,” the coach said.
Okotoks will look to double its medal haul when it hosts the U12 Tier I Provincial Championship from Aug. 12-14 at Riverside Park.
Okotoks goalkeeper Caleb Zarate said sticking to what worked in the regular season will be important at the provincial level – even in the face of new challenges and unfamiliar teams.
“It takes a lot more stamina, you have to focus more and you have to get used to it after a while,” Zarate said.
“I think we will (have an advantage) we’re used to that field.”
For more information on Okotoks United Soccer Club go to okotoksunitedsoccer.ca