The Vancouver Whitecaps FC continued their devotion to developing soccer in the north this week during a two-day clinic in Williams Lake.
Last year, the Whitecaps launched a Northern Academy Centre and a Cariboo Academy Centre to identify prospects and create avenues for players to advance through.
Ross Holtom, associate head coach of the Northern Academy Centre based out of Prince George, said the best players in the Cariboo were invited to the Williams Lake evaluation, held Wednesday and Thursday at the Esler Sports Complex.
A camp was held in Quesnel late July and, combined with the Williams Lake camp, which also featured players from 100 Mile House, the top prospects were invited back for day two of the camp Thursday.
“The idea is to really grow soccer in the north under our philosophy,” Holtom said. “The ultimate goal is to have some from our Northern Academy progress to our residency program in Vancouver.
“The pathway is in place for some players from Williams Lake.”
The Whitecaps currently run 13 academy centres throughout Western Canada where dedicated players are identified early as potential candidates to climb the ranks of the Major League Soccer team.
“We work with the best youth in Western Canada [in Vancouver] and from that they get picked into a pro contract,” he said. “Obviously not everyone is going to make it that far but we have people in place who look to help kids get college scholarships and fit players to the level they can play at.”
Two Williams Lake standouts who have already worked with the Whitecaps Northern Academy Centre are Justin Hansen and Jacob Helminger, Holtom said.
Joining Holtom for the Cariboo Academy evaluation were coaches Todd Kuc and Francesco Bartillo, a University of Northern British Columbia player.
Also on Thursday, Richmond’s Wes Barrett was introduced as the new associate head coach of the Northern Academy as Holtom is moving back to his home in England.