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Coastal Spirit U-19 Tournament

Labour Weekend
Christchurch

I’ve volunteered at the U-19 Tournament (hosted by Coastal Spirit FC in Christchurch) for most of the ten Labour Weekends since the Tournament’s inception in 2008.

The tournament was originally designed to give South Island clubs an alternative to the costs and logistics of attending the Napier Tournament, and began at the grounds at Bexley. In 2010 the Tournament expanded to include girl’s teams with an initial hope that the girl’s section might become the national equivalent to Napier’s status as the Boy’s ‘national’ tournament. But the National Women’s League being a youth league at the time, and playing matches during the Tournament, prevented that from happening. Despite that, the girl’s tournament has seen entries from a variety of Wellington clubs and, in 2017, featured Moreton Bay United from Australia.

The destruction of the Bexley grounds and facilities in the September 2010 Canterbury earthquakes meant that it has since been hosted by a combination of Linfield Park and Cuthberts Green (the two parks are separated by some trees). In 2017, it was entirely at Cuthberts Green:

View of Cuthberts Green admin area prior to start of 2017 U-19 Tournament.

View of Cuthberts Green fields prior to start of 2017 U-19 Tournament.

My tournament work began in 2008 as a results officer, recording match outcomes/MVP votes/updating tables, coordinating draws, and updating the website. But nowadays when I poke my head into HQ before the tournament, I am allocated a hi-vis vest, RT and a ground to marshal (to report scores back to HQ, report by RT any major injuries requiring a physio or ambulance, collect the teamsheets from the ref after the match, and generally keep an eye on things in that part of the ground).

Although this role has a small onus, it has a beneficial effect of compelling me to see a wider variety of teams and matches than I would otherwise. If I merely attended as a spectator, I would probably alternate between the Coastal Spirit teams in the tournament and not see many other teams. But as a field marshal, I get to see a wider variety of matches.

Volunteering at tournaments like these are fun, Tracey has previously articulated that in her blog post about the Douglas Villa tournament.

As with any large event, there’s always some unplanned problem that needs attending to. I won’t go into 2017’s minor hiccups, instead I’ll describe an example from 2016:

On the Saturday morning of Labour Weekend 2016, I arrived via the Linfield entrance to find the pitch piled full of grass clippings and a small army of volunteers trying to remove the clippings, some with rake, some by hand.

A Coastal Spirit volunteer clears the fields of grass clippings in 2016.

I joined in by hand. I’m told that the fields were expected to be mown on the Wednesday prior to the tournament, but that the council hadn’t done it until the Friday.

The fields were playable by kick-off, most of the affect seemed to be cosmetic, but there were a couple of times when the grass changed the bounce of the ball.

I left the day to the sight of several Coastal Spirit volunteers using their motor mowers, traipsing across the number 3 field to catch all the grass clippings to clear the field. They were there for several hours and the result the next day was that the fields were almost completely clear of the mown grass and the sidelines had piles of clippings.

Piles of grass clippings cleared from fields at the 2016 U-19 Tournament.

At one stage later in the Tournament, the nearby softball diamond curator appeared to be trolling us, as he whizzed around the diamond on a ride-on mower.

Teams assembled for the 2017 U-19 Tournament prizegiving.

For the record, the 2017 Tournament was won by FC Twenty 11 (girls) (won Final 1-0 v Wellington United), and Green Island (boys) (beat Ferrymead Bays 2-1 in Final). MVPs (based on selections each match by opposition coach) were Danielle Ward (Moreton Bay United), and Sho Mathieson (Ferrymead Bays boys).

Full list of 2017 winners.

Green Island have put resources into developing youth, and it’s delivered a winning result for their boys; while their girls team will have gained some wonderful experience and, with the current resurgence of Southern football, will hopefully be inspired to come back even stronger.

The team that impressed me most in 2017: Halswell United girls. Their defensive organisation was superb, and they caught eventual winners FC Twenty on the break to, at one stage, lead a group game 2-0. If they can keep their team together, they might be soon back in Mainland Women’s Premier League.

From memory and looking at past Tournament programmes, the Tournament has featured future stars such as Laura Merrin, Rossie Missen, Mikaela Boxall, Emily Jensen, Aaron Spain, Gagame Feni, Erik Panzer, Ash Wellbourn, Kip Colvey. I wonder which of the 2017 participants might become a well-known name in the future.

Categories: Youth Football

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Phil Clayton

Phil Clayton's feet are registered with Brooklyn Northern United but—despite having moved back to Wellington from Christchurch in 2011—his heart is still bonded with Coastal Spirit FC.

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