It’s primed to be a big summer for soccer in the Key City and the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to make it a season to remember.
The Major League Soccer organization will be hosting three camps in Cranbrook over the summer, including a skills camp in August for U5 to U14 players, that will receive a visit from top-flight defender Christian Dean.
“We have had visits [in past years], but this would be our biggest visit to date in terms of the stature of the player that’s coming,” said Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy associate head coach Brett Adams. “Christian Dean is an extremely talented player that the club is very excited about.
“It’s someone to be really, really enthused by.”
The Whitecaps have had a presence in the East Kootenays for the past four years and according to Adams, it has experienced significant growth in that short period of time.
Starting with a simple ‘skill centre’ that was open to anyone, the Whitecaps quickly witnessed enough highly skilled players who needed to be pushed to a higher level that they turned it into a ‘prospect centre’.
“Every player who comes to us has to try out [and] that particular part of our academy happens three times a year and it’s in ten-week blocks,” Adams said. “We give [these players] opportunities to experience Vancouver [and] to get together to go to tournaments.
“We [also] give them opportunities to try out to make the big network of all our academies across BC.”
According to Adams, several players from Cranbrook have made their High-Performance Player Pathway and been very successful.
The Whitecaps also maintain their regional program which is led by head coach Sam Heap, who is now in his third year leading the Kootenays East Prospect Academy.
“[Heap] has done a fantastic job in keeping the level up and coaching the way that we, as a club, have as our philosophy,” Adams said. “We’re absolutely buzzing with the progress that’s been made [in the area].”
This summer, the three camps being offered are: the ‘Prospects Camp’ from July 25 to 28 for U9 to U14 players, the ‘Skills Camp’ for U5 to U14 players from August 14 to 18, and the ‘Attacking Speed and Goalkeeper Camp’ for U9 to U14 players from August 29 to 31. All of the camps will be held at Moir Park, in Cranbrook.
Dean will be making his appearance at the skills camp, and while the specific date is still to be determined based on the wishes of his MLS team coach, it will be an exciting experience for the youth soccer players of Cranbrook.
“What we do is we usually take [the visiting player] around from group to group and then we sit all the players down underneath one of our tents and [have] a question-and-answer [time],” Adams explained. “We give [kids and parents] an opportunity to find out how Christian got to the next level.
“When we make the investment in sending a player like Christian over there, we want everybody that’s connected to our badge to be able to get something from an experience like that.”
Adams said that pictures and autographs will all be a part of the visit and that both the community and the player receive a valuable experience.
“Very often the players that come out are completely inspired by these smaller communities and can’t believe the enthusiasm [they have] for the game,” he said. “We’re always looking to try and inspire the next generation of soccer players. So, if that’s a player, a coach, an ambassador, we’re big on trying to get these kids inspired.”
Christian Dean is in his fourth season as a member of the Whitecaps and has started in three matches for the club so far this season. In 2016, Dean was named the club’s Humanitarian of the Year for his community and charitable efforts.
The 24-year-old center-back is from East Palo Alto, California and played college soccer for the University of California Golden Bears. In 2013, he was awarded All-Pac-12 and NSCAA Far West Region first-team honours and led his team to an Elite Eight finish.
In addition to playing for the Whitecaps, Dean has also played internationally for the United States with their U20 and U23 sides.