Last week Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Bart Choufour visited the Kootenays to reinforce academy training with regional U9 to U18 boys and girls players and coaches.
Kootenay regional head coach Brett Adams was pleased to have Choufour visit and said he has a pretty good handle on how far the club has come in the past two years. Adams said it was a worthwhile experience for the players and coaches to hear the same training message from the top coach.
“We’ve made tremendous strides in two to three years ,” said Adams.
The Star caught up with Choufour in Nelson on Sunday, after he spent the previous few days in Castlegar, Trail, and Cranbrook.
Choufour said soccer players in the Kootenays have improved a lot in the past two years, and pointed to their attitude, which he said counts for a lot.
“With the Whitecaps we are real believers in helping develop players express themselves, to get on the ball, to get out of difficult situations, instead of kicking the ball and hoping somebody is going to be there.”
He said that is the biggest improvement he has seen in the region.
“They are not afraid to get on the ball and help each other play out of tight situations. Because we train that way, and play that way, they become better technical players as well.
“That’s the biggest improvement. If you’re always playing with this type of philosophy, you get way more touches on the ball. You have to make more decisions, you are more often in difficult situations that you have to play out of, so the more opportunities you get to play like that you can’t help but improve.”
Choufour spoke to the Nelson players after they finished their drills.
“It’s a good signal to me when I see players coaching and reinforcing it with each other — it becomes easier to keep playing that way, which is a testament to your coaches,” he said.
Choufour compared the Kootenays’ skill level to other regions, saying we are a little bit behind the Okanagan and lower Vancouver Island.
“Just places that are more populated ,” he said, “and obviously behind Vancouver.” But he was quick to point out that there are players that are very close to that level.
The club has grown from 80 to 300 players in three years.
Choufour will be out again in the Kootenays in 2016.
Choufour is currently the director and head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, providing technical leadership to the regional head coaches on and off the field, including the development of curriculum and delivery of coaching education.
His European experience includes knowledge of a number of youth development systems, in the Netherlands AFC Ajax, FC Groningen and PSV, in Germany Bayer Leverkusen of Germany’s Bundesliga and in Belgium K.F.C. Germinal Beerschot of Belgium’s Jupiler League.
In addition, Choufour has taken various BC youth soccer teams (including Whitecaps Prospects teams) to top tournaments against youth teams from professional clubs like FC Barcelona of Spain’s La Liga and Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal of England’s FA Premier League.