If the swarm of young soccer enthusiasts at Lakeside pitch on Tuesday night is any indication, the new Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy program is going to be a hit in the West Kootenay.
“I’m really pleased to see so many players out,” said David Broadhurst, the Whitecaps FC Okanagan head coach. “I wasn’t expecting to see close to a 100 players, it’s fantastic. It’s great to see that there is interest here in the Kootenays for what we are trying to offer.”
The academy’s aim is to give players that are already with clubs in the East and West Kootenay supplemental training with the best coaching the province has to offer. The academy will include four age groups for both girls and boys: U11/12, U13/14, U15/16 and U17/18.
The Nelson evaluation session earlier this week included players from Nelson, Trail, Castlegar, Grand Forks and everywhere in between.
Three years ago the Whitecaps moved their first academy program outside the Lower Mainland to Vernon. Broadhurst runs the program there and has already seen plenty of success. The move into the Kootenay is the first push farther into BC’s hinterland.
“I think Dave [Spendlove] and [Nelson’s] Soccer Quest have done a great job in this community,” Broadhurst told the Star when asked about why there was such a positive turnout for the first sessions. “Their reputation is good and the small pieces of work we have done with them in previous years, the message is getting out that we are going to be here for the long run.”
The program runs for seven months starting in September and ending in April (there is a two month winter break in December and January). The training includes eight weekends at Nelson’s Soccer Quest indoor facility. Four travel events per age group will also be part of the academy.
Based on the evaluations on Tuesday and Wednesday night at Lakeside, those players accepted into the program will be notified and begin their training next month.
“As a club we are completely committed to player development, it’s crucial for us to survive,” Broadhurst said of the motivation for the Whitecaps to extend their reach. “As a club, the dream is to have homegrown talent, even on our first team… that is what the fans want and the owners would love to see it. The more work we can do in the smaller districts, working with the coaches and the players, it will benefit our program in the long run.”
Broadhurst grew up in England where football is king. He spent 12 years coaching with the Manchester United Soccer Schools at international projects in the UK, Japan and Switzerland. Though soccer in Canada still has a long way to go to catch up to worldwide leaders like England, Broadhurst said the Whitecaps are up to the challenge.
“There are a lots of great athletes here and lots of players that love the game,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before those technical skills will catch up. The players have to put the work in and what we are trying to here gives them that ability.”