“Sports are the truest measure of a person, they don’t lie,” Jay Gardner, the Nakusp Cougars Senior boys’ soccer coach, remarked as he and I watched the Nakusp Junior boys battle through the rain and the mud early Saturday morning. Wet, injured and tired from showing off their spastic moves at the school dance the night before, the Jr. boys soccer team was is the thick of competition during the annual Nakusp Invitational Soccer Tournament. Our home tournament has been a mainstay in the Kootenay region soccer ‘A’ schedule for 11 years, and during its time has garnered recognition from other schools around the province.
“There was a tournament this same weekend in Prince George [an hour’s drive away] but we decided we wanted to come [to Nakusp] instead,” commented Patti Dube, the Burns Lake coach who traveled with her team 1,057 kilometres to participate in the Nakusp competition. Other guests of the tournament included teams from Creston, Golden, Midway, Grand Forks, Trail, Logan Lake, Invermere, Kimberley and newcomer Ashcroft. The senior soccer teams were divided into two pools of competition with a final crossover game to determine the winner of the tournament. Nakusp found themselves in a pool with some old rivals and eagerly hit the pitch at Zeleznik field on Friday morning to face off against Burns Lake. Coach Jay Gardner orchestrated his team as an adaptable unit that incorporated a reactive strategy, often changing player’s positions on the fly until the right combination of Cougar skill exploited their opponent’s weaknesses. Unfortunately this style of play takes time to be effective, and due to the trial and error, Nakusp found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-1 score. The completion of Nakusp’s first game answered their line-up questions and from the ashes of the loss emerged a Cougar tour-de-force that managed to net an astonishing 16 goals in their next three wining matches against Logan Lake, Grand Forks and Midway. The slow start may have cost the Nakusp squad a chance to participate in the final, but the gravel in the guts of our hometown Cougars were clearly represented in the box scores on the tournament board.
On the school field, the Nakusp Jr squad found themselves divided into two teams due to a last minute cancellation. Coaches Dave Scambler and myself attempted to steer the teams though the rough tournament play against formidable rivals Creston, Kimberley and Golden. The encouraging numbers of Juniors that have committed themselves to Cougar soccer made the division of players possible and was remarked on wistfully by other coaches. In the face of declining enrolment and widespread student apathy, Nakusp continues to produce high numbers of competitive athletes willing to leave the warmth of their beds to take the pitch during an early morning rain shower. Both Jr. teams played to a record of one win and two losses during the course of competition (not counting the shootout against each other) and missed out on the opportunity to participate in the battle for first place.
The tournament trophies were hoisted by Trail, who edged out a shootout win during the seniors final against Burns Lake, and Creston, who battled a vicious junior final against the Kimberley squad.
The Nakusp community dug deep this weekend and collectively defied the cold, rainy weather by working together to make our home tournament a success. On that early Saturday morning I sipped my hot chocolate in the rain on a field of bustling action, watching a parade of players, lineswoman, parents and volunteers all coming together to make something amazing happen. Sports don’t lie.