(Photo provided by Toby Gorman/NEWS BULLETIN)
If you’ve read my blog before then you have surely heard me mention the vision that the ownership group of Vancouver Whitecaps FC have for the club and for the game of soccer here in Vancouver, and in fact across the province and country.
They are very passionate about the direction they want the ‘Caps to go in, and one of the main goals for the club is to continue to develop the grassroots level of the sport.
These are certainly lofty goals and ones that will take a great deal of collaboration. Yes, Whitecaps FC can take a leadership role in this, but it is impossible for the club do this on our own.
There has always been a belief in the ‘Caps organization that in order to be successful we need to be developing our own young players, and that means building partnerships around British Columbia and beyond.
Last week I had the pleasure of going to Nanaimo for the announcement of a new Whitecaps FC Island Academy Centre in partnership with Harbour City FC. There was certainly a buzz surrounding the announcement and a ton of enthusiasm from locals that there was now support and collaboration from the ‘Caps.
Creating these academies means the club is building relationships in these communities and hopefully becoming an asset, as well as providing some leadership in player development.
Vancouver Island joins the ‘Caps academy centre network that includes Vancouver, the Okanagan, and the Kootenays, with more to be added in the near future. Make no bones about it, Whitecaps FC are intent on branching out near and far to help grow the game to nurture young players who could one day star for the Blue and White.
There are many challenges for those who live outside of the Lower Mainland. It’s sometimes hard to get high level coaching or the competition they need week in and week out. These academy centres will not solve every problem, but it will establish a clearer pathway to achieving soccer success.
These communities now have a firm belief that their young players can not only dream about taking their soccer to the next level, but will have an opportunity to do so.
Remember, I too was once a boy who closely followed his favourite team and dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player.
Now there are many more kids in BC who can have good reason to hold that same dream.