For an average athlete, practice might be the least favourite part of their life, something that has to be done and just tolerated.
For Cochranite Ethan Gage, his passion for soccer has him chomping at the bit to get on the field, even if it’s just to work on drills.
It’s a work ethic and passion that’s taken the 17-year-old far at his young age, including out to the West Coast where he plays as a defender/midfielder for the Vancouver Whitecaps developmental team.
“I love the sport so much. Every day I’d wake up and I’d have nothing to do and I couldn’t wait until practice began,” Gage says of his eagerness to get on the field.
That’s meant that he’s often missed hanging out with friends, but his commitment to soccer demanded more of his attention.
“I’d rather go to the park and kick a ball. I don’t think I ever missed a training session.”
Gage is securing top minutes with the Whitecaps team in their first season in the USL Developmental League, a continent wide league with 67 teams, stocked mostly with players under 23-years-old.
Although his grueling days usually have him up at 6:30 a.m. and on a bus to a training facility, then off to school, and after that headed off to practice until 6:30 at night, this schedule isn’t getting him down.
“I’m enjoying it a lot. Every day, every practice, every session is a challenge and that’s the way you get better,” said Gage.
Some of the areas of his game that he says have seen a lot of improvement include his passing, and pitch vision, allowing him to look downfield for more options.
His next target for improvement is his shooting and his long balls, something crucial to his play on defence.
He’s also developed physically, adding 25 pounds to his frame, something that’s important in a league where most of the players have a few years and a few inches on him, as Gage stands at five-foot-ten.
In his position in the backfield, he doesn’t get too many options to score but he did have one big game early in the season against the BYU Cougars, putting two goals in the net in a 4-0 victory.
Gage’s goal is to work up to the men’s Whitecaps team or land with a team over in Europe.
To that end, he’ll travel to England with a group of Whitecaps players in August for an unofficial tryout.
He’s already showed his stuff against some of Germany’s top young soccer players, as the Whitecaps traveled there to face U19 Bundesliga teams.
Gage is used to a bit of skepticism about Canadian soccer, either across the Atlantic or at home, but with the Whitecaps scoring an impressive 9-2-1 record in their inaugural season in the USL, Gage is a part of crew that’s turning heads.
“I don’t want to brag, but some of the best players in Canada are on this team,” he said.
“Because it’s a team in Canada, they think it’s not that good. But they see us win, and it gets our name out.”