As the soccer season in the Kootenays kicks up, the Nelson Youth Soccer Association is jumping into spring with excitement and optimism.
Players and coaches in Nelson Youth Soccer will have an opportunity for improvement unmatched in rural outposts across the province. Earlier this month, the association inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps to bring technical assistance to the program.
“Nelson Youth Soccer is taking a huge step forward with this,” says association president Chuck Bennett. “It’s an opportunity for us to grow even further and improve our program even more.”
The agreement between the Whitecaps and Nelson Youth Soccer has been in the works for six months. The one-year contract will bring technical mentoring to the soccer board, its coaches and the players.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC is the professional soccer club that competes in the Major Soccer League (MLS) which includes teams from all across Canada and the United States. In recent years the club has branched out into the province where it has set up regional academy centres geared towards developing players and improving the overall quality of the sport in BC.
Whitecaps FC Okanagan head coach David Broadhurst will head up the program in Nelson this spring.
“Ultimately… technique, technique, technique,” Broadhurst says of the focus of the program he will bring to Nelson. “If they can refine and improve their fundamental skills, then they have the opportunity improve tactics which will make an impact in game situations. The message is: you can’t neglect the technical skills.”
In the past few years, Nelson Youth Soccer has used Soccer Quest for its technical program. That partnership will continue and the coaches that are based out of the indoor facility will continue to work with Nelson Youth Soccer, but it will now be run through the Whitecaps.
“We are going to build on the good work that Soccer Quest has done in the last few years,” says Broadhurst. “We will continue to utilize them to help continue to improve the program.”
Broadhurst grew up in England where football is king. He spent 12 years coaching with the Manchester United Soccer Schools at international projects in the UK, Japan and Switzerland.
Broadhurst is travelling to Nelson two days a week. He works directly on the field with players and coaches while in the community. The Soccer Quest coaches are providing assistance on an on-going basis.
“In order for us to affect every single player, we have to build strong coaches and that has to be an important focus,” he says.
The Whitecaps have set up six regional centres across the province. One of those centres is the Kootenays where the club ran a successful winter program in the last few months for players from Grand Forks to Cranbrook.
This contract is different than the regional centre and is the smallest association the Whitecaps are now working with on a regular basis.
“We want Nelson Youth Soccer to be the leader for coach and player development,” says Bennett. “This association can be the model for all the other regions and clubs to follow. This will strengthen the entire Kootenay region.”
Broadhurst says Nelson has already established itself as the leader in the Kootenays and it was the perfect place to start.
“This is a smaller centre, but we have seen the potential here,” he says. “There are good athletes here and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe that. We feel we can continue to develop the players even further.”
And though the program is not specifically geared towards elite players, Broadhurst says those kids looking to take their game to the next level will benefit from the grassroots approach.
“Ultimately in the long run, 10 years or 15 years down the road, it potentially benefits our [Whitecaps] club because these are the players that could be feeding our first team,” says Broadhurst. “Opportunities in the smaller districts like Nelson may have been few and far between in the past, but through our regional academy centre network we can now provide genuine opportunities for players and coaches to gain a higher level of coaching experience which ultimately benefits the player.”