— Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
By Rudey Downey
Special to the Star
Doug Sweetapple doesn’t think a top-four finish for his team is out of the question.
Sweetapple is coaching the Western Under-14 boys soccer team in Corner Brook for the first time in a long time — he is usually involved with the Under-16s or the Under-18s.
He thinks being the only team in the Under-14 provincial league from this side of the island is no obstacle for his group, who will be competing against seven other teams from places like Mount Pearl, St. John’s, the Burin Peninsula, the Goulds and Conception Bay South.
An up and coming young player on Sweetapple’s team is outside right fullback Riley Chin. Chin is a first-year player that Sweetapple expects to play as if he were a second-year player and says he brings a lot of potential to the table.
“His concentration level is extremely high all the time,” said Sweetapple. “That’s the best kind of player to coach.
Sweetapple saw Chin play with the Under-12s but this is his first time ever coaching the young soccer prospect.
“He’s very confident in his play and he does a great job as our fullback,” said Sweetapple.
The veteran coach says Chin is very solid in all aspects of the game for a fullback, a player who has good ball control, can pass the ball with good ability and can head the ball.
Sweetapple says it’s a very different experience coaching this age group because the younger players have to get used to playing on the bigger soccer fields.
Chin’s mother, Lavinia, played soccer for coach Sweetapple when she was in high school and thinks her son is learning from a coach who really knows his stuff. She says the top four finish Sweetapple is expecting is definitely not out of the question.
“As miserable the weather, those boys are still out there on that field and the coaches are still there just drilling it in, trying to get as much practice time as possible in,” said Lavinia.
Lavinia has been bringing Riley to soccer practice since he was 10 years old.
“It’s pretty exciting actually just watching him grow through the game and just watching him get stronger,” said Lavinia.
Riley plays basketball as well as soccer but his mother says soccer is his first love and even on days he’s not practising, he and his friends are looking for an empty soccer pitch.
Riley says it feels good to have a guy with coach Sweetapple’s experience teaching him the ropes. Chin says he is excited to be playing on this team and feels that the team is strong on defense and works together well.
He expects the season to bring a lot of new challenges his way and two things in particular he feels they need to work on in order to round out his game are his positioning on the field and his passing.