While the Vancouver Whitecaps FC are set to make the leap to Major League Soccer in 2011, they haven’t lost sight of the necessity to find and develop that next crop of talent.
The Whitecaps, in partnership with North Okanagan Youth Soccer Association (NOYSA), will once again offer a 15-week fall outdoor and winter indoor Junior Academy program for elite youth players at the VantageOne Indoor Soccer Centre in Vernon.
The program is open to players ages nine and older, starting in September and running until mid-December.
“We’re excited about our ability to deliver this program on a regional basis,” said Dan Lenarduzzi, Whitecaps FC director of youth development. “What happens there (Vernon) is what’s happening out here (Lower Mainland).
“It has been a popular program, and we only see it growing. The reason we’re able to do this is because of the great relationship we have with North Okanagan Youth Soccer.”
Lenarduzzi told The Morning Star the VantageOne facility offers a considerable advantage for North Okanagan players.
“It’s not all the time that you can train in a professional facility like that year-round.”
Whitecaps’ coach David Broadhurst will head the program. He expects to build from last year’s success and develop the North Okanagan into a youth soccer hotbed for years to come.
“Working with the younger age groups and ensuring they receive quality, consistent coaching is vital in the development of player,” said Broadhurst. “Since moving to Canada, just over a year ago, I have been extremely happy with the attitude of all players attending our programs.
“The improvements I have seen in the players’ fundamental skills are a testament to their hard work and commitment. I am excited about the future of soccer here in Vernon.”
Vernon is also home to the Whitecaps FC Vernon School Academy, another program that is growing in numbers. This program, partnered by NOYSA and School District No. 22, offers a Whitecaps soccer elective to secondary school students in grades 8 to 12, all within their daily school timetable.
“We are now accomplishing our goal of attracting the higher level athletes outside of our city,” said Marina Korberg, NOYSA executive director. “While we will always ensure that the Vernon youth have access to the best level of soccer coaching and programming, we are also motivated to build the best soccer program for the higher level athlete.
“Building on the strong relationship we have with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC is a key component to realizing that dream.”
For more information about the programs and to register, visit www.vernonsoccer.ca.