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Bowen Island FC continues pursuit of "Soccer for All"

Wide range of playing options a focus for the soccer club

Bowen Island’s soccer club is bolstering the ways that all members of the community can become involved with the world’s most popular sport.

Bowen Island FC (BIFC) was formed in 2007, and now as it approaches two decades of existence has grown to offer adult and youth programs, along with co-ed soccer and a women’s league too. It’s all part of the club’s philosophy of “soccer for all”.

“We’re not about the standard of play that you bring or anything like that. We want as many people to come use it as an opportunity to meet people and have fun, and then kind of grow a love for the game along the way,” says Andy Gillooley, creative director with BIFC.

Andy says when he first came to Canada, it was through local soccer clubs in Prince George and Vancouver that he’d meet people, including building a Liverpool FC supporters group in the city which started as a few dozen and grew to several hundred fans.

“That kind of became my community. And then as my kids got a little bit older they pulled me into the coaching side of things with them. I just wanted to make sure that, because it’s a sport that has given me so much in my life, that I’m able to give something back,” says Gillooley.

Anita Peters-White, general manager of the club, says she’s seen the many positive effects the youth soccer programs have had on local kids. “The reason why I joined the club is because it’s one of the few organizations that pulls kids from all the different schools,” she says, with students from all three local schools – Bowen Island Community School, Island Pacific School, and Island Discovery Learning Community – represented in BIFC.

“It’s one of the clubs that brings the community together in a really wonderful environment that’s welcoming. It doesn’t matter what school you go to, it doesn’t matter what neighbourhood you live in. We come together as a community in the soccer program,” says Peters-White, adding that even if kids split off to different schools as they age, soccer classes and the relationships forged through them still keep friends close together.

BIFC operates several youth teams for boys and girls, ranging from Under-8 to Under-13 squads. The club also has Mini House programs for the island’s future stars, aged four to seven. “When we’re working with the more youth focused levels… it’s their first time ever kicking the ball, so we’re working on giving them a grounding in the sport and showing them the fun and community that brings,” says Gillooley.

Specialized programs have become a big focus for the club too, including weeknight academy classes and upcoming summer camps. These offerings allow for further skill development, and in the summer see expert coaches come to Bowen to teach players even more technical skills to advance their game.

These programs also give kids the chance to explore another crucial part of the game – coaching. The small size of Bowen’s field means once players reach age 13 they have to go off-island to continue playing team soccer. To keep island kids involved with BIFC, teenagers are able to help out BIFC coaches with these sessions, earning coaching skills and volunteer hours along the way. At age 16, they can then pursue coaching certifications.

Anita says many young players have followed through on this opportunity, describing it as a “bridge to keep them involved in the soccer community that they were a part of.”

BIFC is far from just for kids – the club offers adults the chance to get out and play as well. The Co-Ed Rec League is open to anyone over 18, and there is also a league for players 50 and over. By popular demand, the club also reignited a Women’s League this year.

Anita stresses that no soccer experience is necessary to come out and join, no matter what age you are or program you are interested in. “If you’ve never played soccer before it doesn’t matter. My girls had never played soccer before and they joined at 11 years old… You don’t even have to know about soccer to volunteer,” says Peters-White.

“There’s so many people who are willing to help you learn how to play soccer, or how to volunteer, or how to participate in any way. I think every single person who has been involved in it would say that it’s really creating friend groups for their kids, or as adults,” she adds.

A full list of youth and adult soccer offerings, including summer camps which start at the beginning of August, can be found on the club’s website at