By Erin Hitchcock
After a day full of tackles, foot work and individual attention, coaches from the Vancouver Whitecaps enjoyed a barbecue dinner put on for volunteers and sponsors at the Esler Recreation Complex Saturday night.
In partnership with the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association, Whitecap professionals spent Saturday and Sunday helping young soccer athletes perfect their skills at the 19th annual soccer camp.
Due to soggy, wet and frozen soccer fields, the camp had to be moved from the Esler Sports Complex to the Columneetza fields, but Mother Nature wasn’t able to stop the dedicated soccer players who wanted to brush up on their skills and show them off to scouts who were watching their every step.
“It worked out very well,” said Dan Lenarduzzi, youth director of the Vancouver Whitecaps, who helped coach the 182 kids at the camp. “This is the first year we added a prospect level to the project.”
Saturday focused on individual improvement and assessment, while Sunday was to address group and competitive action.
“The first day is always a little bit awkward,” he said, adding that the camp still went really well. “Everyone was very enthusiastic.”
The Whitecaps had their eyes on a few key players, but it was hard to say who was the shining star, as it was only the first day of camp.
“We get to look at all levels of playing,” Lenarduzzi said. “We identified several players we definitely wanted to get in touch with.”
The Whitecaps will keep monitoring and following certain players through the coming years of their soccer careers.
It was Whitecap prospector Bart Choufour, whose job was to play close attention to possible up and coming Whitecap players.
“I work with all the top prospects,” Choufour said, adding that he typically deals with male prospects. “Obviously we want to help players get to another level. … We’re trying to work with the kids in a similar way, as we worked with the prospects.”
He said there were several players who showed exceptional skill, and was especially impressed with one U-17 female player in particular.
“It’s hard to gauge where her level is,” he said. “She stands out here. She’s very committed.”
The camp was open to boys and girls from ages five to 16, of all skill levels.
Each Whitecap coach focused on developing different soccer skills, and each player was rotated through each coach to make sure they could improve their skills in every possible way.