By Evin Zapf-Gilje
Almost every young person dreams of becoming a professional in their favourite sport. I was no different. I would often fantasize about playing professionally on one of the European most famous teams. With time, this dream became less of something I thought possible, and more of a fun fantasy to entertain once in a while.
There simply was not high enough level of soccer training or teams in Canada from which you could launch your career into Europe. When I played, the best teams were called “Metro”. Each “Metro” team represented the city the players were from. To play on team of the cities best sounds like it would be a good stepping stone towards a professional career, but the reality was those players did not receive enough professional coaching, and did not train enough times a week. They were only one small step above “Gold 1” in the community leagues. The good news is this is all changing.
Vancouver now has a professional MLS team, Major League Soccer, and with it comes a variety of different grass roots training programmes. This combined with the addition of a new league called the “High Performance League” provides the necessary stepping stones and training programmes necessary for trying to go professional in sport. I have personally spent some time working with the Vancouver Whitecaps Professional Development teams. They receive coaching from a staff of no less than five professional coaches. Each coach bringing something different to the training (for example they have a goalie coach to specifically train the goalies).
Equally importantly they have hired two physiotherapists who run strength training sessions three times a week, and are part of the everyday practices to ensure the kids are strong and to vastly reduce the likelihood of injury. The physiotherapist runs the warmups, the stretching and provide one on one training with any player who does injure themselves.
The Whitecaps residency teams begin from the age of twelve but this does not mean a player cannot receive training before then. There are more opportunities now than before for young aspiring athletes to receive professional coaching in programmes like JBST Soccer Academy and train towards making it into the residency program. I only wish all of these opportunities were available when I was young.
Then perhaps I would have chased my dream, instead of letting it slip away. Young athletes dream big, dream to be pro, because you now have the chance!
Way to go !!!