He came, he saw, he inspired Whitecaps youth with his words
By Marc Weber
Almost all of the 18 photographers and camera crews were gone Thursday afternoon when Steve Nash walked over to a quiet corner of Brockton Oval, stood in front of a captivated Whitecaps' residency team and spoke passionately about what it takes to become a professional athlete, and what it takes to stay there.
Nash's immense value to the soon-to-be Major League Soccer franchise is difficult to quantify, but undeniable. The media throng -- half a season's worth for the current United Soccer League's Whitecaps -- was evidence of that.
But Nash's practice session with the under-19 team was, in essence, a photo op. Nash had some moves -- a diving header, a scissor-kick volley -- and the shutters rapid-fired on cue, but he wasn't there to impart his occasionally sublime soccer skills.
When asked previously about his ownership role with the MLS club, Nash talked about making an impact in youth development.
Just what the Victoria-raised basketball icon can offer became more clear Thursday.
It was the kind of speech that corporations pay tens of thousands for. That people pay hundreds of dollars to hear. This one was free.
"Is your goal to be better than him?" he asked one of the players, pointing to another.
"Why limit yourself? Maybe you can be 10 times better than him." Nash, who famously had but one U.S. scholarship offer, talked about dedication and sacrifice and drive. He told them "to declare what it is you want to become and to make yourself accountable to that." He told them to work relentlessly on their weaknesses and to use their so-called free time wisely.
He said they were competing for jobs in a cut-throat business, not just with teammates, but with kids all over the world desperate to change their lives through soccer.
That a touch of the ball in practice should be treated as if in the last 10 minutes of a cup final.
And he reminded them to make it fun. And not to take themselves too seriously.
"It's motivation at its finest," is how residency midfielder Russell Teibert of Niagara Falls, Ont., described the speech.
Teibert, Canada's U-17 player of the year, runs trails and works on backyard ball-skills on his lone day off.
"Before, when I was in the press conference with him [Nash], he said this feels like being a kid in a candy shop," Teibert continued. "That's pretty much identical to what this means to me. Seeing a guy like that, seeing him go this far as a Canadian, it makes me feel like I can do it too.
"He had to make 300 shots before going to bed -- just to feel OK about himself. It's good to hear how hard it is to actually make it."
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