Vancouver Whitecaps ambassador and staff coach Carl Valentine has some fun with local soccer players (from left) Morgan Worthington

Vancouver Whitecaps ambassador and staff coach Carl Valentine has some fun with local soccer players (from left) Morgan Worthington

Whitecaps help promote game

Lakecity soccer players got a chance to meet and play with Canadian soccer legends this past week.

Lakecity soccer players and youth from several elementary schools in the community got a chance to meet and play with Canadian soccer legends this past week.

Sam Lenarduzzi, Vancouver Whitecaps regional scout and camp manger, and Carl Valentine, former Canadian World Cup player and Whitecaps ambassador and staff coach, spent some time in Williams Lake Friday and Saturday promoting the game they love.

“We did five elementary schools, kindergarten to Grade 7, and the kids were very excited,” Lenarduzzi said. “We spent about 45 minutes at each school going through the four different skills of soccer. It’s interactive and they get to cheer, have fun … The kids had a great time.”

Saturday, the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association held Soccerfest, its annual registration day at Williams Lake secondary. Again, young players dropping by throughout the day registering with their parents had the opportunity to kick the ball around with the Whitecaps.

Lenarduzzi, who has been coming to Williams Lake for the past 20-plus years hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Soccer Camp, said the team’s hope by reaching out to the youth is that more kids will come out and register for soccer. He also said the Whitecaps have begun taking a more proactive role in developing players and soccer in the province.

“There are good players everywhere,” he said. “You don’t want to be the one who missed the next Beckham, or the next whoever and they’re out there. If you look at the story of Pele and (Diego) Maradona they came from these little villages in the middle of nowhere.

“So, we’re here to strike up a partnership (with the WLYSA). We’ve always worked a lot with the younger kids (at the summer camp) but now we’re looking at working with some of the more older kids and rep kids.”

Lenarduzzi said he hopes, eventually, with the emergence of professional soccer in Canada, people will begin to see there are pathways available to players — much like how hockey is treated nationally.

“People looking for a pathway to professional soccer — if that’s what their passion is — we’re working to provide that pathway,” he said. “There are more kids playing soccer than hockey, so we’re trying to fill that void. In hockey the kids have something to aspire to — in soccer they need something to aspire to.”

Brian Hansen, player and coach development co-ordinator for the WLYSA, said having the Whitecaps on board is a tremendous asset for the organization.

“We’re all volunteers and to have the skill level, the background and the support from the Whitecaps to help steer us and guide our kids to give support and instruction is something, in a rural community, you just can’t get like in the big city,” Hansen said.

“This relationship is such a positive thing for us and there is a lot of opportunity there for kids.”

The Whitecaps, including Valentine and Lenarduzzi, will be back in the lakecity May 26-27 for their spring soccer camp.

Registration forms are available at the WLYSA office at #204-197 North Second Ave.

Additionally, signup is still underway for the WLYSA season. After March 9 there will be a late fee. Forms for soccer registration are available at www.wlysa.com.