Whitecaps looking closely at Island talent

The Whitecaps FC soccer club relaunched its Island Academy Centre last month at the Arbutus Meadows Equestrian Centre at Nanoose Bay.

Alex Dedame

Alex Dedame

The Vancouver Whitecaps aren’t interested only in winning matches. They’re also determined to grow the game.

The Whitecaps FC soccer club relaunched its Island Academy Centre last month at the Arbutus Meadows Equestrian Centre at Nanoose Bay.

Previously the ’Caps had partnered with Nanaimo’s Harbour City Football Club on the academy, but this season the Whitecaps decided to be independent in hopes of appealing to soccer players in associations up and down the Island.

The academy is intended to be a complement to regular team practices and games.

“You only get them on a short-term basis and then it’s trying to make sure that they remember everything that you taught them,” said Sam Lenarduzzi, regional programs manager with the Whitecaps. “Hopefully they go back and use it and then that way hopefully they retain it.”

Lenarduzzi said coaching at the centre in Nanoose feels like home, as it’s the old artificial turf from B.C. Place that he used to play on. The venue works well for the Whitecaps, he said, both because of its central location on the mid Island and also because it offers clement weather every night.

“You’re not fighting the elements and I think for the kids and even for the parents that are watching there, it’s a much more enjoyable experience in that sense…” he said. “We’re going to try and focus on that facility and make it a real home for us in the winter.”

There are programs for boys and girls in the U10-U12 and the U14-U18 age groups. The academy is invite-only, so players wishing to register now would need a coach’s reference. There will be another round of tryouts in the new year.

Lenarduzzi said the academy uses the same coaching curriculum as the Whitecaps’ residency program in Vancouver.

“I’d love to see, one day, one of these kids from Nanaimo playing on our first team,” he said.

For more information, visit www.whitecapsfc.com/academy or contact coach Craig Angus at 250-327-1643 or cangus@whitecapsfc.com.

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