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A bright future for the Yellowknife Bay Soccer Club

Joe Acorn says other sports, like basketball and volleyball, are starting to move in the same direction as the Sundogs. “I think people kind of realize that if you really wanted to develop something that’s long lasting, that would be here for a long time, you need to develop the proper club system,” he said. Dominika Roseclay/Pexels photo

Joe Acorn said he had an easy answer for a moment he’ll never forget as the founder of the Yellowknife Bay Soccer Club, better known as the Sundogs.

“There used to be an Edmonton city championship for underage girls,” he said. “I took down my underage girls. And we went down and there’s, like, 70 teams in this tournament and our little team from Yellowknife, a community of 18,000, won the Edmonton city championship. The best underage girls team in Edmonton that year was actually from Yellowknife.”

That dates back to 2013, Acorn added. It’s a moment that shocked him, but also made him ecstatic.

“I don’t think the girls — they’re only seven or eight years old — they never quite realised the magnitude of what they actually did. But it was incredible for a little group from Yellowknife.”

Now, the Sundogs continue to brighten peoples’ day, operating year-round, for both youth and adults.

The youngest in the program is about 16 months, said Acorn. It marks the start of the ‘Sunpups’ for the youngsters. Those now less than the age of five have their chance to play, too.

“We had some younger ones that were two and three whose parents just wanted to get them out,” Acorn explained. “It’s basically an unstructured, uncoached program. So, we provide all the equipment and all the field time and parents can just come out and play with their little kids.”

Acorn added that time is for having fun without having any pressure or any coaching. When they’re ready to move into the next, more advanced program for kids less than five, they can.

The club’s next birthday is this coming summer and the name ‘Sundogs’ hits close to home, he added.

“I wanted something that reflected a little bit more of the fact that we’re from Yellowknife. And we’re in the North and Sundogs are something that you see in the Northern sky up here all the time,” said Acorn. “I just thought it was great. I love the name.”

As for the club’s existence, it comes from the act of a parent first, and soccer fan second.

“My daughter was six years old, and there wasn’t a competitive development option here,” he said. “I wanted there to be a skill development competitive pathway for her and my son when he got a little bit older as well.”

Acorn’s daughter, Wren, didn’t keep up with soccer, making the move to speedskating instead. She’s now in Montreal working with the national speed skating program, he said. Still, what matters are the experiences.

“Getting involved in soccer just develops them, in terms of their ability to travel and expose them to other cultures, other places, things like that. And I think that, besides the sporting side of it, that’s a really good benefit for the kids up here.”

For Acorn, what matters now is legacy for this club.

“I want to be able to walk away from this and 20 years from now I want to see my grandkids playing and being a little sunpup,” he said. “I want this to last, I want this to be something that’s enduring.”

—By Devon Tredinnick