(Photo provided by Toby Gorman/NEWS BULLETIN)
If you’ve read my blog before then you have surely heard me mention the vision that the ownership group of Vancouver Whitecaps FC have for the club and for the game of soccer here in Vancouver, and in fact across the province and country.
They are very passionate about the direction they want the ‘Caps to go in, and one of the main goals for the club is to continue to develop the grassroots level of the sport.
These are certainly lofty goals and ones that will take a great deal of collaboration. Yes, Whitecaps FC can take a leadership role in this, but it is impossible for the club do this on our own.
There has always been a belief in the ‘Caps organization that in order to be successful we need to be developing our own young players, and that means building partnerships around British Columbia and beyond.
Last week I had the pleasure of going to Nanaimo for the announcement of a new Whitecaps FC Island Academy Centre in partnership with Harbour City FC. There was certainly a buzz surrounding the announcement and a ton of enthusiasm from locals that there was now support and collaboration from the ‘Caps.
Creating these academies means the club is building relationships in these communities and hopefully becoming an asset, as well as providing some leadership in player development.
Vancouver Island joins the ‘Caps academy centre network that includes Vancouver, the Okanagan, and the Kootenays, with more to be added in the near future. Make no bones about it, Whitecaps FC are intent on branching out near and far to help grow the game to nurture young players who could one day star for the Blue and White.
There are many challenges for those who live outside of the Lower Mainland. It’s sometimes hard to get high level coaching or the competition they need week in and week out. These academy centres will not solve every problem, but it will establish a clearer pathway to achieving soccer success.
These communities now have a firm belief that their young players can not only dream about taking their soccer to the next level, but will have an opportunity to do so.
Remember, I too was once a boy who closely followed his favourite team and dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player.
Now there are many more kids in BC who can have good reason to hold that same dream.
On weekend of Saturday, September 15, I spent time on the Sunshine Coast working with all of their teams over two days as part of a partnership between Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Sunshine Coast Youth Soccer Association.
This was my fourth visit this year with at least one more visit to come. The experience I have had so far has been excellent, and as we continue to build our partnership I expect the experiences to get better and better.
Whitecaps FC are committed to growing the game of soccer in British Columbia and being an asset throughout the community. There is no way we can make this happen on our own though. In order to achieve these goals we need to build partnerships that we can nurture and grow.
I first traveled to the coast with Sam Lenarduzzi to meet with the SCYSA board and present a proposal that would see us enter into a partnership. The ‘Caps have done many camps here before but this would see our coaching staff be present on the coast throughout the year. It would involve camps, schools, evaluation support and coaching at all levels.
Before this weekend Sam Lenarduzzi and I spent two full days visiting eight schools, where we demonstrated some soccer skills and communicated a healthy and active lifestyle. The kids seemed to enjoy our time together and the principals and teachers of each school indicated that it was very beneficial.
I also had the pleasure to be at the evaluations as all the teams were being put together. Being there as part of the SCYSA & Whitecaps partnership gave me a chance to meet many parents’ players and coaching staff and observe the many talented players on the field.
During the weekend many of the SCYSA teams were getting together for the first time, where they met some new players and received their kit for the season. And all the teams were able to participate in a 90-minute training session with our Vancouver Whitecaps FC staff. It was also an opportunity for the coaches to watch and take notes of the sessions provided by our quality staff.
There was good weather over the two days and lots of happy players as they walked away with Whitecaps FC posters and some knowledge of how to improve their soccer skills.
I really enjoyed my weekend working with a number of teams and being able to talk soccer with a number of coaches. It was also encouraging to see many kids turn up with their Whitecaps jerseys, and knowing that the ‘Caps are supported and loved not just in the lower mainland.
I will be back on the coast with our Residency coaches to work with the Rep teams, and I am excited by how well the first year of our partnership has gone. When I was playing for the ‘Caps back in the day we were very much the province’s team. Now with more kids playing soccer than ever before and the commitment of the club to help grow the game of soccer and be an asset in the community, I hope that all British Columbians can feel the same way about our Whitecaps now.