An annual Prince Rupert tradition returns this week as Charles Hays Secondary plays host to the well renowned GoalGetters youth soccer tournament.
Under the trusty guidance of former Canadian national team player John Sneddon, kids aged 3 to 15 will be taught the fundamentals of soccer through the week long program. The kids represent a wide range of experience levels, from those who have played for years to children trying on their first pair of soccer boots.
Sneddon has been around since the beginning, and along with former Vancouver Whitecaps player Gerry Heaney has spent decades fine tuning the camp to deliver the best instruction for the participants.
“We decided that the younger kids in the province needed a camp that was based on skills and skill development,” said Sneddon regarding its origins. “We did a lot of camps in the lower mainland. And we did camps from Vanderhoof right through to Haida Gwaii.”
|Luke Simons took part in the “Wee Kickers” class for kids ages 3-4 at the GoalGetters soccer camp. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
It’s in these small communities that those involved with the program have made some of their best memories. “We find that the small communities are more appreciative of what we do,” said Steve Latham, one of the coaches at the camp. “People have opened their house for us to stay in. There’s a lot of great soccer fanatics in the north, it’s a great place to be.”
Latham is a testament to another focus of the camp: the development of reliable coaches. Latham’s first camp was in the mid 1990s, and he was soon after recruited by Sneddon to help coach the event.
“There’s a lot of players like me, it’s like a legacy piece,” said Latham. “There’s a lot of connection between players and coaches.”
Michael Pucci found his way into coaching through a similar situation. “I was taught by GoalGetters as a kid for a number of years,” said Pucci. “With my kids getting into soccer I volunteered to be a coach, and there’s John [Sneddon] teaching them.”
Pucci’s involvement was important not only for the enthusiasm he brings to the sideline, but also to the financial assistance he was able to provide for the camp. GoalGetters had recently lost their sponsor of many years, Northern Savings. A manager at DP World, Pucci was able to convince his employer to step in and fill the gap, allowing for the kids of Prince Rupert to continue receiving this valuable resource.
|The GoalGetters soccer camp will run all week at Charles Hays Secondary, teaching kids ages 3 to 15 the fundamentals of the game. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
“I don’t think that guys like that exist anymore,” Pucci said when talking about Sneddon and Heaney, and the importance of keeping the camp running. “They have a system that they believe in and they do it for the love of the game.”
This system was one of the biggest attractions for Pucci, and other parents like him, to the camps.
“The games that they have developed for their camp is all about working so that the kids become intuitive to the nuances of the game,” said Pucci. “It’s about explaining the games to the kids so that they naturally develop those skill sets.”
The coaches get plenty of time to impart their knowledge on the kids as well due to a strong coach to student ratio. “You’re never going to see a group that’s larger than 14 players, usually it’s closer to 10,” said Sneddon. “So they’re getting real high quality coaching as a really small group.”
The GoalGetters camp takes place from July 8-12, with a mini “World Cup” tournament on the final day.
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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