Erik Hurtado had some simple advice for Nelson’s future soccer stars — keep their eyes on the ball.
The Vancouver Whitecaps forward was in town Thursday as part of the club’s annual summer skills camp at Lakeside Park.
While it’s common for players to switch positions in their youth, Hurtado was always drawn to scoring goals. So when asked what young players should do to turn into professional strikers, Hurtado knew what to say based on lifetime of playing the game.
“They should definitely keep their eye on the ball,” he said. “A lot of people don’t do that. They look at the goal and look where the ball is going to go because they want to see the goal. But the ball can move at any time. So if you keep your eye on the ball and you follow through, then you can watch your goal on T.V. That’s what I’ve been told.”
The 26-year-old American took questions and chatted with inquisitive youngsters during the visit to Lakeside. (His favourite player? Brazilian legend Ronaldinho. Has he ever played against Lionel Messi? No, and he’d rather not. How many times can he juggle the ball? 1,000, although he appeared to be joking.)
Hurtado, who was selected fifth overall by the Whitecaps in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, didn’t get to meet a professional player face to face until he was 20. He said time spent with pros has a big affect on kids.
“A lot of motivation. You see someone doing the dream you have and it shows you that if you train, if you dedicate yourself, if you sacrifice, you can meet your dreams.”
Hurtado follows Jay DeMerit, Tim Parker and Marco Bustos as Whitecaps players who have made the journey to Nelson the last four years.
Brett Adams, associate head coach of the Whitecaps’ academies, said the program has had a big impact on its players.
“Even now, they might go watch a game now, because they probably aren’t watching games now and that’s fine, they are only kids. But when they do now and they see [Hurtado] on the T.V., they can relate to it,” said Adams. “They can tell their mums and dads that, ‘I asked him a question. He told me his favourite team. He told me this.’
“And that’s inspiring. If we can get more fans, more lovers of the games, we don’t always have to create professional players do we?”