THE FIRST Whitecaps FC soccer academy here in Terrace kicked off with enthusiasm and hard work — traits that continue to be key as the academy sharpens the soccer talent in this area.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC expanded into Terrace and Prince Rupert last May, employing high-end coaches to train youth in the weekly, school year program.
Roughly 75 young athletes, ages eight to 18, are training in the Terrace academy, with close to 30 per cent coming from Kitimat and surrounding communities as far as New Aiyansh.
Local Whitecaps players Luke Badge, 13, and Nancy Moore, 12, said they have loved being in the academy so far.
“I joined ‘cause of my love for soccer,” said Badge, “and I thought that this would really help my soccer skills and my footwork — and it did.”
“I really enjoy it,” she said. “I like how Craig teaches us new things… focuses on our individual work… like dribbling and dekes and stuff.”
Besides sharpening their skills and encouraging their hard work, Terrace academy coach Craig Angus said they motivate and inspire youth in soccer by giving kids ways to advance in the sport. That might be simply equipping a 14-year-old player to score a spot on a local rep team, or it could mean players earning a spot on the academy’s High Potential Player team, which travels to big tournaments in the United States to compete, Angus explained.
Players need opportunities to advance so they have a sense of purpose in playing, said Angus.
“Having the Whitecaps here, there’s a true reason to play soccer… you can fulfill a dream,” he said.
But opening up those opportunities also takes raising the bar within the entire soccer community, and that’s the other side of what the Whitecaps do.
“We are constantly at the fields, just floating the fields and watching games,” said Angus.
And not only is he scouting for undiscovered players, but he’s also gauging the coaching to identify ways to better equip those volunteers during the coaching clinics offered by the Whitecaps.
This year, the Whitecaps ran a three-part series of clinics to equip and reinforce the dozens of volunteer soccer coaches in the Terrace Youth Soccer Association (TYSA).
The move improves soccer skills in the region all around, but also builds connections with the association so that coaches will direct stronger athletes towards the Whitecaps.
“At the end of the day, players develop at different rates, and that’s why we try to form key partnerships with associations and communities, so that from the grassroots, community program is then linked into the academy program,” said Angus.
He says the startup of the academy in Terrace went smoothly, and was met with enthusiasm by the Terrace soccer community.
Local TYSA coach Sean Bujtas deserves a lot of credit in that, Angus said, for bringing the Whitecaps to Terrace and helping things get off the ground.
“We wouldn’t be here without him,” said Angus, noting that it was a call from Bujtas that got the ball rolling for the Whitecaps start up here.
The Whitecaps academy is now wrapping up their first season in this area, concluding on July 15-16 with a final tournament in Prince George.
Called the Spring Summit, the event will stage 5-on-5 games with Whitecaps athletes from all four academies in the north: Terrace, Prince Rupert, Quesnel and Prince George.
After that, the Whitecaps will run a summer camp here in Terrace Aug. 24 to Sept. 1, with coaches including major league Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston, who is also captain of the Costa Rica national team.