A Whitecaps FC soccer academy is kick starting in Terrace this coming spring, aiming to build up the skill-level in the northwest and field more opportunities for youth.
The first academy in the north save for Prince George, Whitecaps will employ a high-level coach from outside Terrace to run evening programs year-round, training children and youth in the technical skills of soccer.
Besides boosting the level of competition in the north, the academy will open opportunities for youth to pursue the sport after high school, said Sean Bujtas, who is a coach with the Terrace Youth Soccer Association (TYSA) and actually prompted the academy’s move.
“I hope that it will help grow the sport, and will help us grow the calibre of player we’re producing in the northwest,” Bujtas said.
“But more importantly, it should open doors for our kids to play soccer beyond Terrace.”
Right now, northwestern players rarely earn soccer scholarships because of their limited opportunities to be scouted, Bujtas said.
“Most of our kids when they go to university, they have to do walk-on tryouts… but probably some of those kids could have gotten scholarships if they’d gotten seen.”
He says that the Whitecaps academy will provide a platform for the elite players of the northwest to travel and play more competitively where they can be seen by university scouts.
Whitecaps official Brett Adams said the academy will start in May and be based in Terrace, with the coach travelling weekly to Prince Rupert and Smithers to run programs there, provided they get support from those soccer associations.
They don’t know exactly how it will look yet, Adams said, but it will involve bringing in a top-level Whitecaps coach.
“We would employ a highly qualified, full-time member of staff to live and work out of that area,” Adams said.
Unlike the Skeena Middle School hockey academy, operated by a private company, Whitecaps FC is a completely independent soccer company. However, Adams said they will work with TYSA and the other associations and organize their programs around the regular summer league.
TYSA provided its support last week and, if the enthusiasm about the idea is any indication, approval is likely coming from Smithers and Prince Rupert associations within the month.
“We are offering it to the three areas, and if there is an uptake, we will come,” Adams said.
There would be no cost to the associations and Bujtas says the idea was very well received.
“Everybody thought it was fantastic and great for the north,” Bujtas said. Terrace parents and TYSA directors “were very keen and see this as a great opportunity.”
The whole move was prompted by a simple phone call from Bujtas after provincials this summer, where he noticed emerging skill in the girls team from Nelson, where an academy opened in 2012.
Now if all goes as expected, youth ages 9-18 will tryout for the first academy next May.