Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in this four-part series.
Growing up in Marystown on the Burin Peninsula, soccer was life for Vince Pickett.
“For some of us, hockey might be the best game in the world, and for some of us, soccer is the best game in the world,” he said.
“It depends where you’re to — the Burin Peninsula was a hot bed of soccer.”
In the sport’s heyday in the area, most communities on the peninsula had a team and they’d compete against each other in front of a passionate fanbase.
It was simply a natural progression for Pickett to become more involved than just playing on the field. Whether it was coaching or serving at the administrative level, Pickett was always happy to step up.
His coaching career began back in the early 1970s, when he was in his 20s and took on the role of player/coach with Marystown.
“That’s just the way it was done back then,” he said of the dual role. “Helping out wherever you can.”
He’s since coached teams at the Atlantic, provincial, regional and local levels, including guiding Team Newfoundland and Labrador to an impressive silver-medal finish in 2001 and masterminding a provincial senior men’s Challenge Cup win for Marystown in 2004.
He arrived on the west coast about five years ago, and immediately got involved with the local minor soccer association. He coached the Western U18s, but also made it his personal mission to revive Challenge Cup soccer in the city after a five-year absence. He did, in 2016, though it lasted only two seasons, the second of which he was forced to miss due to work commitments.
He’s retired now, and back living at the Humber Valley Resort. Unlike many, he viewed retirement as a great chance to roll up his sleeves and get back to work.
After a quick chat with the minor soccer crowd, including longtime friend and the association’s director of coaching Doug Sweetapple, it was determined Pickett would take the reins of the Western U17 club for this coming summer.
And it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his coaching style, team practices have already begun in earnest, with the group meeting at the Corner Brook Civic Centre Studio every Sunday throughout the winter months.
“Then our goal is to hopefully get into the Tier 1 division of the (provincial league) and go from there,” he said. “See where it takes us.”
His attention to detail and desire to win are undeniable as he gushes over his roster, pointing out potential strengths based on just a few sessions so far.
He’s always trying to prove himself as a coach, he said, and he’s attended numerous coaching clinics along the way to do so.
“Always be improving, no matter what you’re doing,” he said.
He’ll be 70 in March, so he’s not entirely sure how much longer he wants to keep at it. As long as he’s available and can offer his services, he said, he’ll do what he can.
“I’m too old to play,” he said. “But I enjoyed coaching and I still enjoy coaching.
“I just love staying with the game.”
Watching young players having as much fun on the field as he did is always “great to see,” he said. But it’s not always just about fun, particularly at the provincial level.
Commitment is everything, and he preaches that constantly. Passion for the game is also a must, of course, but regardless of the skill level a player has, without putting the necessary work in, it won’t be worth anything in the end.
“Hard work and commitment are the two most important ingredients,” he said. “For soccer and for anything in life, really.”