Although you may know about the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer, you may be interested to know they also offer an academy for players who want to develop their skills and reach the next level.
The purpose of the academy centres is to focus on developing the four main pillars of the game.
Those are tactical, physical, technical and the mental aspects which are necessary to advance to higher levels of play.
The Whitecaps currently have 14 academy centres across Canada and the Northern Academy has more than 100 players in the program.
Head coach Craig Angus of the Northern Academy Centre says they have something called the Whitecaps way.
“The focus is to develop players in line with the players we see at the higher levels,” Angus said.
“Ultimately there skill set at the time they come in will determine some of the things we work on. We want to create technically sound players who are good and creative on the ball, not afraid to receive the ball in tight areas and are also aware of their surroundings.”
Even with the number of academy centres, Angus says all the coaches are on the same page.
“We have a director of academy centres who oversees everything from a technical standpoint and guides us in relation to the curriculum,” Angus said.
“Although the programs are synergized it doesn’t mean we want all the kids to be clones of each other. What we would like is to be able to tell that they’re a Vancouver Whitecaps player in our system.”
Angus says he’s always looking for players to improve.
“The Whitecaps program wants to make players better, but with a purpose,” Angus said.
“We want to develop players that are good enough to move on to the next level of the program. Every day we’re thinking about how we can make players better. It’s not just growing the game from a technical standpoint, but also growing the love of the game.”
The Whitecaps also have a club residency, which is a full time and fully-funded player development program.
They are the only club in Canada that offer this program for both boys and girls. It’s designed to maximize players potential on and off the field, through a soccer lifestyle philosophy linking technical and personal development.
Players are identified through the Whitecaps scouting network and player evaluation processes, from B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of eastern Canada.
The main goal for the program is to identify B.C. based players through the BC Soccer Premier League and other Canadian players across the club’s territory.
Angus says a program like this is great, but admits making the residency program is a challenge.
“The players are not only battling against players from their own region, but also other regions and western Canada,” Angus said.
“It becomes a bigger pond and the chances become less.”
He adds even if players don’t make the residency program there is always a place for them.
“There is still a purpose for those players who aren’t at the stage to go into residency,” Angus said.
“We still work with them and hopefully make them an important part of our college transition program.”
Along with the technical skills players learn from the academy, Angus says they also learn skills away from the pitch which will help them in life.
“Part of player habits is not just from a technical standpoint,” Angus said.
“It’s building players who are prepared to work hard and not just at the practice sessions, but hard away from practice. If they get in the habit of putting effort in, it will hopefully stick with them in everything they do in their life. I think it’s important people know, although the program is a soccer development program, there’s also a big emphasis on mindset and how you approach things.”
There will be a free evaluation session for players looking to get assessed by the northern academy coaching staff closer to the end of the summer, in preparation for the fall program. Currently they are in the process of organizing a trip to Vancouver, where northern academy players will have an opportunity to play with and against players from the other 14 academy centres in Canada. For more information on the Whitecaps Academy you can visit http://www.whitecapsfc.com/youth or you can contact Angus at firstname.lastname@example.org.