Mother Nature hasn't co-operated so far but the goal remains the same: advance to OFSAA.
That's the mindset of the Muskie boys' soccer team ahead of its season as the black-and-gold look to make it to the all-Ontarios for an eighth-straight year.
“I believe our goal every year is to make it to OFSAA,” said Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair.
“The Muskie boys' soccer program has a strong reputation and tradition, and each year that is something that us, as a coaching staff, want to achieve,” he noted.
The team typically starts tryouts a week earlier. But this year, all of the games have been pushed back a week, including the week of OFSAA, due to winter wanting to overstay its welcome.
“There is only so much you can see of players in the gymnasium, as it is such a confined space, compared to the actual soccer pitch,” Sinclair reasoned.
Something different this year for the Muskies was the opportunity to compete in an indoor exhibition tournament in Kenora back on April 7.
Teams from Kenora and Red Lake also participated and each game was played seven-on-seven and lasted an hour, with each team facing off against each other over the course of the day.
“Kenora is very fortunate to have a beautiful indoor facility, so having this opportunity to bring the kids down is a great chance for us coaches to get to see what the kids can bring in a game situation,” Sinclair remarked.
“We have never done this before, but the coach of Kenora reached out to me and asked if I would be interested,” he added.
“I jumped on the opportunity as our fields are not in any condition to be practised on just yet.”
Sinclair also said the exhibition showdown was a great way to see what each student who is trying out can bring to the team.
“I believe that this will be very beneficial to us, as coaches, as it will allow us to see what each kid can bring to our team,” he explained.
“It also allows us to see how students represent themselves and the school on a field trip.”
Sinclair split all 25 of his players who travelled to Kenora into two teams—Team White and Team Black.
“To be honest, I'm not really sure which team won what games, and I did not care about winning or losing,” he stressed.
"It was the first time lots of my students have even touched a soccer ball since the summer.
“We played a round-robin, as mentioned," Sinclair added. "Then in the last game of the day, I put both my teams together and we played against Beaver Brae.”
Sinclair said there were several kids who impressed him, but he wasn't going to name anyone in particular because not everyone who is trying out for the Muskies was in Kenora and because he hasn't made any cuts yet.
The next exhibition action for the black-and-gold will be at the annual St. John's Ravencourt tourney slated for April 27-29 in Winnipeg.
Sinclair is hopeful to get his players outdoors this week so he and the rest of the coaching staff can get a better idea of what the team will look like this season.
“We had two days of dryland training, one day in Kenora, and three days in the gym at the high school of tryouts,” he noted.
“I am crossing my fingers that I can get outside on Monday and then make my team after seeing them all on the field,” he added.
"But I'm not sure if that is going to happen.
“I do not have a clear picture of what my team is going to look like, and the coaching staff have some important decisions to make within the next couple days,” Sinclair conceded.
“I think tryouts have been very good and competitive, and have seen a lot of different players stand out through the duration of our tryouts.”
Since they only have this week and next to prepare for the Winnipeg tournament, Sinclair said he would like to have the team solidified sooner than later.
“The plan is to see them all out on the field at least once and go from there,” he remarked.
“Once my team is complete, it will be very fast-paced moving forward,” he added.
“Focusing on positions and formations that we will be using so everyone is on the same page and knows their roles on the field.”