By Alistair McInnis - Prince George Free Press
Published: September 25, 2008 4:00 PM
The Vancouver Whitecaps are returning to Prince George. But this time, the team isn’t carrying a roster stocked with talented soccer players with it.
In July, the first-division team thumped a Prince George all-star squad 6-0 in an exhibition match geared to give soccer fans a glimpse of professional soccer.
This time around, the entertainment value won’t be as high. However, their visit this weekend may be just as significant.
With an emphasis on developing young soccer talent, coaches associated with the team are visiting town to run a youth training camp on Saturday and Sunday.
“One of the things we try to stress is that ideally if you come and you leave having learned a little bit, that’s great and that’s a bonus, but we try and make the weekend a very enjoyable one so that the kids have a very positive experience once they leave,” team president Bob Lenarduzzi said.
The camp is slated to run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day for players aged seven to 15. For the youngest group, comprised of players in the U8 to U10 age groups, the primary focus will be technique and skills. The Junior Whitecaps division for U11 to 13 players will place more emphasis on speed, agility and team play.
The top select players at the camp will be placed in the prospects category, a division for U13 to U16 players. Bart Choufour, the Whitecaps’ head coach for boys prospects, and Jesse Symons, the Whitecaps’ head coach for girls prospects, will guide those players.
The camp is organized by Bob’s brother Sam Lenarduzzi with the help of Sipho Sibiya, head technical coach for the Prince George Youth Soccer Association (PGYSA). His other brother, Danny Lenarduzzi will be in Prince George this weekend to assist Sam, the camp’s head coach.
Also managing the camp is David Broadhurst, the Whitecaps’ regional coach and coach of the Manchester United Soccer Schools.
“Then we’ll have other coaches that are a part of our roster of coaches,” Bob said.
Bob said the goal is to operate the camp using a ratio of one coach per eight players. He’s anticipating roughly 140 participants, so a minimum of eight coaches are expected to be running drills.
In the past, the Whitecaps held the Prince George camp in the fall.
“We were up there almost every year up until about four or five years ago and then we ran into a few years of snow, just around the spring time so that kind of dampened spirits a little bit,” Bob said. “But we’re choosing to come in the fall now which makes it a different prospect from a weather perspective, we hope.”
This weekend’s event is part of the regional weekend training camp program that brings Whitecaps staff and players to communities throughout B.C. They’ve already completed regional camps in five cities in 2008 - Nanaimo, Quesnel, Williams Lake, Vernon and Kelowna.
“(The camp is) really valuable,” said Sibiya, a former Whitecaps player. “You’ve got a professional team that is looking, not only at young kids, but prospects and stuff, so it’s another exposure for our kids here.”
Sibiya said on Wednesday would be held in one of two possible locations. If the weather permits, it’ll be held outdoors at the Rotary Soccer Fields. Otherwise, all the sessions will take place indoors at the Northern Sport Centre’s fieldhouse at UNBC. For updated information, visit the PGYSA website at www.pgysa.bc.ca or call the league office at 250-564-5900.
Players are expected to bring a lunch and snack on each day. Balls and the rest of the equipment are provided, but players are expected to bring soccer cleats, shin pads and water bottles.
The camp fee is $139 per player for the weekend. For more information or register, visit the Whitecaps website at www.whitecapsfc.com. Individuals can also sign up for the camp by calling 250-564-5900.