A Vanvouver Whitecaps FC soccer academy will be kick-starting in Terrace, Smithers and Prince Rupert next spring, aiming to build up the skill-level in the northwest and field more opportunities for youth.
The academy will employ a high-level Whitecaps coach in Terrace to run programs in the three communities 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 the limited opportunities for them to be seen by scouts, 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.
Adams said they don’t know exactly how it will look yet, but it will involve bringing in a top-level coach.
“We would employ a highly qualified, full-time member of staff to live and work out of that area,” Adams said.
Whitecaps FC is an independent soccer company, however it works with the soccer associations and will organize programs around the regular summer schedule.
TYSA sent their support last week and, based on the enthusiasm of everyone at a meeting in Terrace Nov. 19, approval is expected 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.
He added that 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 Whitecaps academy north of Prince George next May.