Island kids band together to form soccer team

DEER ISLAND – At one point, there were 15 kids, both boys and girls, playing soccer on Deer Island. Once the COVID-19 restrictions came into play, requiring all those playing sports to be fully vaccinated, the number fell to eight. Unfortunately, in order to have an official soccer team, there must be 11 players, plus substitutes. So, Clinton Pendleton of Deer Island came up with the idea to invite young athletes from Campobello to join the Deer Island team.

“I know the mayor over on Campobello,” said Pendleton. “He told me that he thought the kids over there wouldn’t be allowed to play soccer because of the border restrictions. So, I kind of had that in the back of my mind.”

Pendleton said he had considered inviting kids from Campobello to play on the team, but when he first came-up with the idea, he wasn’t sure how many players they would have from Deer Island. Initially, they ended up with more than enough players, but that changed and the number of players dropped significantly.

“We had one game, and after that game, we found out the COVID restrictions. Then, we said the obvious solution would be to contact some parents over on Campobello and see if they wanted to join our team.”

Pendleton spoke with Kale Merrill, phys-ed and athletic coordinator at Campobello Island Consolidated School, as well as a parent from Campobello, and recruiting for new team members began. Pendleton said Shayleigh Anthony began “recruiting and spreading the word a little bit”, and now there are kids from Campobello who are playing on the Deer Island team.

Nowthere are enough players, another challenge has arisen: transportation. The ferry service between Deer Island and Campobello will close for the season on Thursday, September 30. But, that didn’t stop kids and their parents from taking part for as long as possible.

“We have to work with everybody’s schedules and ferry schedules and stuff. We’re able to shift around our practices and we have a good idea when our games should be during the week, just to accommodate everybody over there,” said Pendleton.

Anthony said she really has to commend Pendleton for reaching out to Campobello to invite kids to play soccer on Deer Island. She said due to the small population on Campobello, they didn’t have enough kids to be able to form a team of their own. The new vaccination requirements also meant that it would be even more difficult for kids to play in other areas. Anthony said there are some parents who are hesitant and did not want to commit, both because of transportation issues and COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’ve been just trying to work together to make sure we’ll all have enough kids to form a team,” said Anthony. “I believe, for the next week or so, we have three or four children at least who are able to participate and have committed to it. As of right now, the children and the parents I’ve spoken with are genuinely excited to have the opportunity, because if we had not joined the Deer Island school, they wouldn’t have been able to play sports. They all need a little bit of normalcy in their lives.”

Another problem that comes into play when organizing an athletic team is having enough volunteers for coaching. Pendleton said the head coach is a student at UNB Fredericton, and she goes to the island to run practices, which have been shifted from Mondays to Sunday afternoons in order to accommodate the schedules of families from Campobello who want to take part.

“She takes responsibility for the team,” said Pendleton. “It’s pretty good for everybody. Volunteers are hard to come by. When you have kids in university who are trying to make a good name for themselves on their resumes, any volunteer work, it’s kind of a win-win.”

Kale Merrill said he thinks this combined soccer team is a great idea, because Campobello doesn’t have the numbers for their own team. He said numbers are low for all sports due to the small population on the island, and any time they can find ways to keep kids active, he is definitely on-board. He also hopes that the ferry service will be extended for a little while longer so the kids have more opportunities to play.

“I hate being cut off from extra-curricular activities because of transportation. It would be very, very nice if that ferry was running,” said Merrill.

Pendleton also said he would like to see the ferries between Deer Island and Campobello run longer, and later in the evening, so parents and kids don’t feel rushed if there are to be games in other areas, such as Saint Andrews and St. Stephen.

“I personally grew up with the owners of those ferries, and they’re really good people,” said Pendleton. “I just think it’s a no-brainer. It’s not so much whether Campobello needs it or not. If they want it, they should get it. If it takes something like sports, kids programs, and the quality of kids sports programs between the two islands to bring this to light, I think it’s good.”