Taegan and Keelyn Stewart are twin sisters from Calgary, and they are exceptionally passionate and motivated about soccer.
The two creative attacking midfielders play locally for Calgary Southwest United, and take on high performance training in the Whitecaps FC BMO Alberta Academy Centre. They have travelled as far as Barcelona to play the sport they love.
So when the opportunity came to get additional training in the ‘Caps daily online Live Skills Clinics in their own backyard, they were quick to take it.
“We did those every day,” tells Taegan.
Since then, they have been regulars in the Whitecaps FC Virtual Academy, twice per week, continuing to get as much professional coaching from home as they can.
“We really enjoyed those sessions in the summer, so when we found out about the Virtual Academy we really wanted to get in to train,” added Keelyn.
With dreams of donning the Red & White for Canada, both players remain highly focused and have noticed improvements in their respective games.
“I’ve found that my left foot has really improved, as well as my shoulder checking,” noted Taegan
They have especially liked the opportunity to train with their peers from across Canada, pointing out the night prior they were online with another player from the Yukon.
Lucy Baxter has been playing soccer since she was five, but opportunities to get involved in the sport can be a bit limited in Whitehorse.
The temperature these days is around minus 15 – not too bad according to Lucy – but it can get as cold as minus 40. With no full-time league, Lucy plays whenever she can.
“We don’t have enough people to play against [locally], so normally we would go down to BC and play against teams like Dawson, when COVID wasn’t happening.”
Lucy has also spent time playing as a guest player with Thompson Okanagan FC (TOFC) in the BC Soccer Premier League, and she was planning to come to Vancouver for a Whitecaps camp this past summer. She has been playing on Yukon’s Canada Summer Games team. Last year, before the pandemic, she travelled to England to attend Brook House College Football Academy.
With a desire to get on the ball, Lucy was keen to join the Virtual Academy.
“I just really wanted to get good training and improve my skills. I think training by yourself and getting feedback is really helpful, because it’s harder in a big group to get that personal feedback.”
Lucy need not look far for motivation in her soccer journey. Fellow Yukoner Joe Hanson – who’s dad coaches the local academy in the territory – has pushed himself to new heights and into the boys MLS Academy in Vancouver.
“One of my goals is to try to make the girls REX team in Vancouver,” tells Lucy. “It’s cool to see [Joe in the MLS Academy]. Not many people from the Yukon have done that before, so it’s definitely inspiring.”
Snow in Saskatchewan
Brennan Roy plays goalkeeper and striker for the Weyburn Soccer Association. He’s played in the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System for the last four years. When he had the chance to work with more coaches than he’d regularly see, he jumped at it.
“Training with a club that I watch play on TV, I had to take that opportunity. I can feel that my footwork has improved, my first touch, and my dribbling.”
With the snow coming down in Weyburn, he’s gone all out to set-up his home pitch in his garage.
“We bought two rolls of turf and a rebounder as well.”
And his goal from this additional training?
“I just want to be an all-around player, able to play any position if I’m asked.”
Newfound training environment
Bethany Lee first encountered the ‘Caps in August of 2016. Bart Choufour made a trip out east to visit the local program for an identification camp.
A few months later she was invited to start playing in the Pre-prospects program as part of the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System, partnered with the Newfoundland & Labrador Soccer Association.
“The fact that a professional club like the Whitecaps came to our province was really big,” remembers her dad Ted.
Since that time she has continued to grow her game as a midfielder and winger, first with Feildians Athletic Association , and now at St. John’s Soccer Club. She is also working to get on her province’s Canada Games team.
In the summer she began taking part in the Like Skills Clinics. She also spent time running through Homeplay sessions, and tried new skills from BMO Ball Mastery – specifically she took to mastering The Slap Cut by Owen Antoniuk, and Roll Scissors with Deylen Vellios, the latter being a move she had seen Tobin Heath pull off (though her favourite player is Christine Sinclair).
She too has taken on board the personal feedback reports she has received.
“It’s been tremendous. It feels like I’m part of something bigger nationwide. I get access to high level coaching weekly from Vancouver. Instead of them needing to come here on a flight, it can be virtual.”