The pride is all over Paul Stroeder’s face when he talks about how the kids themselves are responsible for the U12 boy’s Rankin Wolves soccer program winning the Recreation and Parks Association’s Community Organization of the Year award this past month in Iqaluit.
“The effort the kids give into our fundraising, and seeing the look on their faces when they go to Yellowknife, are the things that give me the most pride from our program,” he said.
Stroeder was also a co-winner of the Official of the Year award this year, organized and coached the program. He said more and more kids have been joining the program since he started it five years ago.
He said he even has the parents of younger kids in grades three and four asking him if their sons can come out to his practices.
“I don’t turn anyone away, so all are welcome and I try to make it work with the kids I have out,” said Stroeder. “Simon Alaittuq School (SAS) has been very good to us.”
He added the school has given the program another gym time that allows him to split the kids up, with 15 players in each session.
“I’m also working with the U13 boys now because I still want to keep the kids involved who have graduated from SAS,” he said.
The participants in the Rankin Wolves U12 program have risen from between 15 and 18 players in the first year to between 45 and 55 this year.
Stroeder said even though the boys are actually playing futsal, he still teaches them the fundamentals of soccer.
He said players still have to learn how kick, pass and receive the ball properly, and learn to compete while having lots of fun.
“The futsal part of it is more technical – keep the ball in play rather than bouncing it off of the walls – so it’s more of a possession game that requires the kids to really have to learn how to pass and receive a ball properly in order to really have a lot of fun while doing it,” he said.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than kicking a ball that just goes out of bounds and then you have to start all over.”
Stroeder lists the fundraising his players do as the single things he’s most proud of with the program.
He said they have to earn their way and help out if they want to go to Yellowknife for a tournament by selling raffle tickets and helping out at bake sales and penny sales.
“They have some sense of ownership with this group because it’s not just about come out to soccer and then you’ll get to go some place,” he said.
“Taking kids, who may not have been out of Rankin or the region before, out of the community and over to Yellowknife is incredible when you see the look on their faces when they get there and can go to McDonald’s, which they’ve only ever seen on TV, for the first time.”
Stroeder said he sees the award as recognition of the hard work and dedication put into the program by the kids.
He said the program is entirely about the kids, and that’s exactly the way it should be.
“These kids will see the award banner being put up in SAS, they’ll read this article in the newspaper and see their pictures and their t-shirts, and it will give them a sense of accomplishment. And that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
“I’m proud of the fact our program won the award, and I’m proud of all the effort these kids put into the program. It’s all about them, so seeing them taking a sense of ownership and giving so much back to the program is all that you can ask for from them.”