As the years go on, Matthew Dallman hopes to see Gorge Soccer Futsal continue to grow.
The GSF program, which features boys and girls from nine-years-old to high school seniors, expanded from 17 local teams in 2017-18 to 30 this past winter in seven different age groups with multiple squads hailing from Goldendale, Wash., White Salmon, Wash., Hood River and The Dalles.
“The league growth has been outstanding,” said Dallman, The Dalles High School varsity boys soccer coach. “The soccer community has been amazing with regards to supporting these new and exciting programs. People are constantly asking when the next league is starting up, and the kids love it.”
The teams played every Sunday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Chenowith Middle School with between 75 to 100 spectators on hand to cheer the young athletes on.
Dallman likes that these games are drawing bigger crowds, as the atmosphere and energy gives the players an extra boost to compete at a higher level.
Another part that Dallman takes pride in is the fact that even when games are over, players and their parents stick around to cheer on the other teams in action, so there is a close-knit, family vibe happening.
“It’s really cool to see 9-and-10-year-old kids sticking around to watch the older teams play,” Dallman said. “You can see that kids are motivated and look up to the high school players that they are able to watch in the league. I still get parents and kids coming up to me talking about the high school game on the football field this past season and how excited kids are about playing in high school. Kids are talking about how much they can’t wait to be able to play for the Riverhawks.”
Now that the GSF programs are becoming more established, the competition will only grow, which will improve all soccer players in the gorge area.
Offseason repetitions will prove vital down the road when local high school athletes take on schools with players who play soccer year-round competitively, so it has been a massive uphill battle for Dallman and other coaches outside of Bend, Eugene, Corvallis and Portland.
“Having players in The Dalles that are able to play year-round competitively will be a huge boost in competing against the top schools in the state,” Dallman said. “Closing the gap on those bigger schools will be tough, but these programs are where you have to start. The roadmap to becoming a better competitive soccer player in the gorge is getting easier to navigate. We finally have options available to our youths.”
Through the year-round program, Gorge Soccer Academy, hundreds of kids have been able to improve their skills and fundamentals, while showcasing them in seasonal leagues such as Futsal (winter), GSL-5v5 (spring), and GSL-The Dalles Youth (fall).
Over the past two years, Dallman has seen these kids improve and that is a positive step in the right direction, because there is a big crop of talented players coming up in the gorge.
“I am excited about what the future holds,” Dallman said. “When you have people out here supporting these kids and everyone taking ownership in the progress of the athletes, you will see bigger and better things down the road.”
Dallman commended Ixtapa, of The Dalles and Hood River, Spooky’s Pizza, Speedy Septic, Mid-Columbia Vision, Orchard View, High Rolls Ranch and McClaskey Orchards, the eight local companies who stepped up and sponsored teams by covering their league fees.
The next Gorge Soccer League (five-versus-five) starts in March for outdoor games.