Whitecaps expand Cranbrook operations

Cranbrook Skills Centre evolves into Kootenay East Prospects Academy

Taylor Rocca

Vancouver’s professional soccer team is expanding its presence in Cranbrook.

The Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer, partnered with the Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association (KEYSA) to provide the Whitecaps Cranbrook Skills Centre in September 2013. In a matter of a year, the program has been advanced in an effort to further develop soccer talent in the Cranbrook and Kimberley area.

“Within that year, we’ve seen such an improvement with the level and ability [of participating players],” said Whitecaps regional head coach Brett Adams Wednesday afternoon. “We decided it was only right to move the [Kootenay East] area on to the next level so that we can start to give some of those more committed players a chance and an opportunity to be taught by a professional club.”

Wednesday night marked the first session of the Kootenay East Prospects Academy, which houses 80 players, boys and girls, ranging from U-10 to U-18.

Players were invited to join the program following tryouts in late August. Approximately 100 hopefuls auditioned for the local academy. That is a vital difference between the former Skills Centre and the Prospect Academy. The Skills Centre was open to participants of all ages and abilities, with a focus on developing basic soccer skills.

“With any program that we run, we want to encourage that fun element and the ability for players not to be frightened to make mistakes,” said Adams, who holds a UEFA ‘A’ license, the highest coaching license one can obtain. “But this prospects group certainly goes more towards the finer points of the game.

“We’re now trying to improve [player] skills and let them see where that fits within the game.”

The Kootenay East Prospects Academy isn’t the only Whitecaps program in the Kootenays. The Vancouver-based club also operates the Fernie School Academy, which also began sessions Wednesday night. The Fernie program is designed similarly to the previous Cranbrook Skills Centre, with all interested welcome to participate.

On the west side of the Kootenays lies the Kootenay West Prospects Academy in Nelson. It functions just as the Cranbrook academy does.

Between the Cranbrook and Nelson academies, there is a total of 240 participants enrolled.

Adams oversees operations at both Kootenay academies, planning sessions from top to bottom. Assistant coach Sam Heap will run the sessions in Cranbrook, while Adams does the same in Nelson.

The Kootenay East Prospect Academy’s fall sessions run from Sept. 17 through Nov. 19. Once the snow melts, the program will recommence in the spring. Dates for spring sessions will be released at a later time.

“It’s okay having a player for 10 weeks, but then if you don’t see him again for 20 [weeks], players forget things,” Adams said. “Continuity and repetition is what we’re about.

“The more you see a player, the better they become. They start picking up good habits and they start learning and challenging themselves. That’s one of the big things, we’re trying to keep these players together all year long.”

The Whitecaps run similar prospect academies in Kamloops, Prince George, Vancouver and Vernon. Adams plans to set up tournaments around the province as well as a training weekend in Vancouver, allowing players to gain valuable experience in a more competitive environment.

Adams wished to thank KEYSA for its participation and embracing of the Whitecaps programs in the East Kootenays.

“Without these fantastic volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”