Board strikes partnership with 'Caps - The Delta Optimist

Two soccer academies to open this September in North Delta, followed by one for girls in Tsawwassen in 2009

By: Sandor Gyarmati

The Vancouver Whitecaps and the Delta school district are trying to spread the word about new soccer programs that will be available at a pair of Delta schools this fall.

The professional soccer club announced this week it has formed a partnership with the school district to run two soccer academies in North Delta, both to kick off in September.

The Whitecaps Delta Prospects Academy is in partnership with the B.C. Soccer Association and will include boys in grades 11 and 12. To operate at North Delta Secondary, the program will have 20 boys who are already in the Whitecaps system and considered elite prospects.

"It's almost like a transitional program for players who come into that age that are almost at the very top of their age group. These are players who potentially have an opportunity to be in our residency program and have opportunities in the national team programs and also have good scholastic opportunities," explained Dan Lenarduzzi, the soccer club's director of youth development.

The Whitecaps Delta School Academy is for grades 8 to 10 boys at Delview Secondary. Set up to accommodate 40 students, the program is open to those playing above the house level.

"We're looking for motivated players who want to do well in soccer, but are also keen on education as well. So we're looking for the right combination of athletics and education," said Lenarduzzi.

Noting it's going to be the first such academy offered by the Whitecaps, Lenarduzzi said players at Delview, as they get older, might get into the more elite program.

Alex Watson, Delta's director of continuing education, said there is very little risk for the district because of the partnership with the Whitecaps and because the costs to operate the programs will be minimal.

"The Whitecaps are going to lend us a lot of their resources and expertise. A lot of the management in this is going to be taken on by the Vancouver Whitecaps," said Watson.

"As an educator, I'm delighted to offer students an opportunity to combine their educational studies with their passion for a particular sport. I just wish I had the opportunity as a kid to combine my studies with my passion for sports," he said.

Noting the monthly fee for the soccer academy at Delview will be around $225, Watson said the school board is negotiating with Delta's parks and recreation department to use the new artificial turf field in North Delta, the Dennis Elsom Field.

Bart Choufour, a South Delta Secondary teacher and coach in the Whitecaps system, will manage both soccer programs.

The school board and Whitecaps were also hoping to open a girls academy at SDSS this September, but that has been delayed until September 2009.

"We hoped to also have the girls academy but that proved to be too ambitious. The Whitecaps are investing a lot of their money and manpower and they found themselves overextended. They said if they are going to do this, they are going to do it right," said Watson.

The school board, which held an information meeting this week at Delview, still has to see whether enough students will apply for the Delview program before the final go-ahead is given.

Watson said he's confident there will be a great amount of interest once word spreads that such a program through the Whitecaps is available.

Lenarduzzi said he's also confident there will be more than enough parents wanting to register their kids for the Delview academy.

"We know it's always difficult to get a program off the ground, but we feel that even though we're kind of late and under the gun here, we have a lot of support from the school board and I believe a lot of support from the community."

Those wanting more information can go to the school district's website at web.deltasd.bc.ca.

© The Delta Optimist 2008