The Manitoba Major Soccer League season has begun, and for the Niverville Force SC it's their first time in Division 1. However, it was almost a year without a team. Team co-owner and manager Sue Thompson explains,

“Well, I'm not going to lie. This team probably wasn't going to go on. When our head coach for the past three years, Andry Giesbrecht, announced he was leaving, some of the guys said we're leaving too.”

Thompson said says their players seemed to be dropping like flies. “They're having kids, and they need to spend time with their family, and I was thinking, what are you guys doing? We've earned a spot in Division 1.”

She notes they talked to all players, and many returned for practice in spring, and others were hesitant, saying, “What kind of team would we have without a coach?”

Thompson says after successful spring try-outs, “we’ve added four new guys. We’ve lost a few, which is super sad. Our team is like a family. We hang out together. We have barbecues together. We pick each other up, that sort of thing.”

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The Niverville Force SC first came on the soccer scene in 2021 with co-owners Andry Giesbrecht and Sue Thompson. Like all teams in the League, they too started in Division 3, and then moved up one division, one win at a time. Though they came in second place in the finals in 2023, they were still promoted into Division 1.

In an interview with Steinbachonline in September last year, coach at the time, Andry Giesbrecht noted, “it's very exciting to be in Division 1, but my eyes are on the highest division in the MMSL, the Premier Division.”

Now with Giesbrecht no longer head coach, but still co-owner of Niverville Force SC, he and Thompson decided to look around for a suitable coach. One that would continue this team's journey to the Premier Division. And with the tenacity of Thompson, she found the right coach to lead them for the 2024 season.

The Niverville Force SC new head coach is someone very familiar with soccer and sports in southeastern Manitoba.

“His name is Walt McKee. He has been part of the community for a very long time. His daughter and grandkids are from Niverville. He has coached soccer for probably 50 years.”

“Walt is my best friend's dad, but we've known him through soccer. He started the U of M Bison women’s soccer program. He played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1972). He won the Grey Cup with Edmonton (1975). Oh, yeah, he's got a wiki page. He's a very well-known person.”

Thompson talks about McKee's style of coaching. “He’ll bring a wad of folded papers to practice which he’ll keep in his pocket. He has 50 years of drills in a book which he prints off and brings them to practice. And he has told the guys, if you ever want practice notes, I've got them. So yeah, I am thrilled that he’s going to be our coach.”

Thompson says their season officially started Tuesday, May 7 on the U of M Bisons turf in Winnipeg, where they won 4-2. The Force SC will move their homefield to the Niverville pitch in June once there is more evening light.

She is excited to see all the fans line the field. “We have a lot of spectators. Some games we would get 100 to 150 people.”

Thompson looks forward to the year with their new coach, new jersey’s and playing in a new division in the MMSL. While Giesbrecht says he'll be watching and cheering on his team from Paraguay.

Coach Walt McKee (left) Co-owner Andry Giesbrecht (top-right) Sue Thompson (bottom-right)Coach, Walt McKee (left) Co-owner, Andry Giesbrecht (top-right) Co-owner and Manager, Sue Thompson (bottom-right)