For two weeks in April, Prince Rupert Youth Soccer Association (PRYSA) participants were able to absorb a whole plethora of knowledge from one of B.C.’s most knowledgeable coaches and technical directors around.
John Sneddon, whose extensive resume lists such positions as former Canadian national team player, a BC All-Star Pacific Coast League member, part of the Calgary Springer Kickers national champions squad, head coach of Grassroots II for the Abbotsford Mariners FC and BC Soccer Grassroots tutor for the North Coast, has been working with each and every age and gender of the PRYSA during the past few weeks after the association enlisted his services as technical director to kick off its 2015 season.
And Sneddon is no stranger to the area.
The founding organizer of Goalgetters Soccer School, one of B.C.’s oldest and most revered of its kind, has been coming to Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and Terrace for over 20 years to mould northern B.C.’s young soccer players into quality athletes.
“Last year BC Soccer invited a couple [soccer] presidents from the north to come down to a seminar,” said Sneddon, who knows PRYSA president Mike Cavin and Goalgetters sponsor Northern Savings Credit Union interim chief executive officer Sharon Stromdahl quite well already.
“We have all the players in the [PRYSA] come from each [age] group for an hour, so we’re going to do some skills and a warm-up – a warm-up promoted by the FIFA world body, it prevents injuries – and then we’ll do a little bit of ball skills and then we’ll play a couple games,” said Sneddon, who was surrounded by dozens of orange and yellow soccer cones at Charles Hays Secondary field last Thursday.
Each age division in the PRYSA gets its own special treatment, said Sneddon, and the earlier years will handle more of the basics than the older, advanced ages (under-15 and under-19).
“I’ve kind of broken it up so that the under-6s (U6s) and U10s have one program and the U12s have a different program because hopefully we kind of assume that the older kids have more basic skills and are further ahead,” said the director.
With the older divisions, Sneddon commands one-on-one and two-on-two attacking and defending drills. They cover team defending practices, attacking principles and the end zone game, where players must pass the ball around the end zone in order to score.
On this day, he’s working with the U12 girls. Sneddon has the players run the FIFA warm-up in the session, followed by ball-handling skills and topped off with the end zone game.
Not stopping with the players, Sneddon has also trained Prince Rupert coaches on how to better their teams.
The hope is that despite the city’s isolated location and travel challenges facing rep teams, the players will get the same top-calibre training and instruction that Lower Mainland teams regularly receive.
“Basically, it’s about time on the field. There’s some great athletes here and really decent soccer players. The more time they get with the ball, the better they’re going to be. Also, they won’t just practice on a Tuesday or Wednesday – they’re going to take the ball and play everyday. But that’s up to them,” he said.
And how are the young Rupertites showing compared to their Terrace counterparts – an association Sneddon spent considerable time with last April under the same program?
“A lot of the players here, between here and Terrace, there’s not a lot of difference. There’s good kids involved and you’ve got a beautiful turf field. That wasn’t the case three years ago, so this is brilliant,” said Sneddon.
“The best thing I think for kids here is to play the sport, get as good as you can, get a scholarship at a northern university and then from there you can actually get into coaching [or other avenues]. As far as playing professionally, that’s a tough one. We have two players on the [Vancouver] Whitecaps who are Canadians that are on the first team and that’s a group of 22. The rest are kind of from everywhere else.”