The offseason is generally a time for players and coaches to put their feet up and enjoy a deserved rest.
But for Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie, it was an opportune time to fly to Asia and give something back to the global soccer community.
For several years now, Rennie – along with those he has coached and played with in the past – has ventured to all corners of the world to impart his wisdom to those that are deprived of opportunities to develop their game and learn new skills in their homeland.
Earlier this month, it was Nepal’s turn to benefit from Rennie and his travelling band of soccer philanthropists.
“It was a really fun time,” the coach said of his visit to the landlocked South Asian country. “We did a lot of things which were a little bit different to what I normally do. We did some coaching with kids in orphanages, some work with children from slum areas and we staged little soccer tournaments and things that are totally different to what I do every day with Whitecaps FC.”
Rennie also took the opportunity to explore a country that is high on the ‘must-see’ list of adventurous backpackers.
“I got to see a beautiful country and travelled around a lot of it,” he said, before adding: “I did a little bit of trekking – but not Mt. Everest, which was a little high.”
He also couldn’t ignore the grounding effect it had on him.
“It helps you get a good perspective on life really because you see a different way that people live,” he said. “You realise how fortunate you are to live here in Vancouver and be a part of Vancouver Whitecaps FC and I think it just invigorates you to come back and work really hard and do the best you can for the club here.”
In previous years, Rennie has been to places such as Mozambique, South Africa and Sudan among others and there are always familiar faces accompanying him on such visits, making them even more memorable.
“I’ve been to other countries with some of the same people so it was just fun to hang out with them and hopefully do something positive for other less-fortunate people,” he said.
“In the environment we’re in as professional players and coaches, we get a lot of things done for us and I think it’s important for us to give back and provide some service to other people and I think we were able to do that for the people in Nepal. We were certainly thanked for the work we did by the soccer federation there and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
“With soccer I’ve been given a lot and hopefully with some of the knowledge I’ve got I can give it to the people who wouldn’t otherwise get that kind of coaching or that kind of time with a professional player or coach, so hopefully it’s giving something back.
“But you usually find that when you do that, you tend to get more back yourself and I feel like that it was something I really enjoyed and would like to continue doing in the future.”
Not only do these goodwill missions impact Rennie on a personal level, but they also have the potential to benefit Whitecaps FC on the field in the future.
“One of my friends there is very well-connected in football in Africa,” he said. “And he was telling me about a player who he had recommended to me and so we might actually get something out of it in terms of a really good player that we think could be exciting for the club in the future.”
Unearthing diamonds in the rough and giving them the opportunity to succeed in life – is there a better way for a coach to spend an offseason in Major League Soccer?