By Cara Brady - Vernon Morning Star
Young soccer players got their first lesson before they even put on their gear at the first session of the Whitecaps FC Vernon Soccer Academy.
"When you have this jersey with the logo on, you're an official Whitecap, part of a program with guidelines. This is an opportunity to develop your soccer skills and character and to advance as a soccer player and an individual. We're really excited on behalf of the Whitecaps to be here," Dan Lenarduzzi, the team's director of youth development, told the students.
The academy is a partnership between the North Okanagan Youth Soccer Association, the Vernon School District and the Whitecaps.
The academy, which was a vision of Dave Fehr, a Kalamalka Secondary teacher, and Andy Waughman, head coach, attracted 56 students, male and female, including four international students.
One student from Kamloops is going to school in Vernon to be able to participate in the program.
"The students from Mexico are really keen because of the popularity of the sport there. I see this camp as a real strength for the program," said Dave Lee, principal of the International Student Program and board member of North Okanagan Soccer Association
The school district is facilitating the program by making student timetables fit the two-hour, four-day-a-week program through January and providing transportation to the VantageOne Indoor Soccer Centre.
The new soccer centre and the commitment of the local soccer association were among the reasons the Whitecaps chose to take part in the academy.
"This facility rivals anything in the lower mainland or is even better. People here should be proud. It gives the kids a better chance to advance their skills and stay in soccer to a higher level," said Lenarduzzi.
"This is our first camp outside the Lower Mainland. We see talent in our summer camps and this gives them a chance to get on our youth team and work their way up that they might not have otherwise."
David Broadhurst, technical program manager, told the students, "It's really important that we develop you guys as soccer players, that you respect yourselves and the other players and work hard all the time. You're going to go away better soccer players."
Local coaches and teachers are happy to see their students in the program.
"It's an excellent opportunity for them to be part of the Whitecaps," said Barb Wilson, Vernon Secondary School coach.
Broadhurst and Waughman got the players out on the field as soon as possible, doing flexibility exercises, passing and control drills, and getting to know each other with the coaches quick to call out praise for good work.
"I think we're really lucky to be able to get the chance to do this with a sport we love with great coaches," said Emma Byskov, a Grade 8 W.L. Seaton Secondary student.
Fellow Seaton student, Noah Varley added, "It's exciting. We might get a chance to go on to the Whitecaps in Vancouver."