Soccer talent search scoops players

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Fort Smith's Roger Vail, the assistant coach of the male team, offers directions to players at the 2017 Canada Summer Games identification camp held in Hay River from June 17 to 19.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Fort Smith’s Roger Vail, the assistant coach of the male team, offers directions to players at the 2017 Canada Summer Games identification camp held in Hay River from June 17 to 19.

A search for soccer talent for next year’s Canada Summer Games has made a stop in Hay River.

The 2017 Canada Summer Games identification camp visited from June 17 to 19 and attracted players from a number of communities.

A half-dozen male players from Hay River participated in the camp, and just one female from the community took the opportunity to try out for the team.

The lone female was Fiona Huang, a Grade 10 student at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.

Huang said she was a little surprised that no other girls from Hay River participated.

“A lot of girls play soccer around town, so I don’t know why no one else tried out,” she said.

Huang said she participated in the camp because she likes soccer.

“I find it really fun,” she said.

Plus, the 15-year-old she said it was a good chance to learn about the sport.

“I’ve learned a lot about spacing and game play,” she said.

Huang also hopes to be able to make the NWT team for the Canada Summer Games.

The identification camp – presented by the NWT Soccer Association – was open to boys and girls from all over the NWT.

Yellowknife’s Mike Doyle, head coach of the female team, said 12 girls participated, and along with Hay River they came from Fort Smith and Yellowknife.

To be eligible for the NWT teams, the players will have to be 18 years of age or under when the Canada Summer Games are held August 2017 in Winnipeg.

The Hay River camp is one three in the NWT. The first one was held in Inuvik earlier in June and another will be held in Yellowknife from July 1 to 3.

Doyle said the identification camps are designed to see which players are out there that can be invited to a camp in September in Yellowknife.

“And we’re going to take all those players that we’ve selected to come in September and then try and put a team together of approximately 20 players to move forward to August where we’ll reduce it down to 18 to go to the Canada Summer Games,” he said.

Doyle expects most of the NWT players will be around 17 years old with a few 18 year olds because of the lower population in the NWT from which to select.

That will make the NWT teams young compared to places like Ontario, he said. “We don’t have a depth of aged players. We have to look a little bit to the younger groups.”

At the identification camps, Doyle said he wants to determine the fitness of players, and see how they handle the soccer ball and how they move when not controlling the ball.

“Are you making runs or are you just standing still? What are you doing when you don’t have possession let alone when you just have the ball?” he said. “So we want the players to be active, not to be standing still. So when they don’t have possession are they making a run to get the ball back?”

They also practised skills such as attacking, crossing the ball and heading it into the net.

Fort Smith’s Roger Vail, the assistant coach of the male team, said 20 boys showed up for the identification camp.

Along with Hay River, they came from Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution and Yellowknife.

Vail said some of the players are returning from the team that represented the NWT at the Western Canada Summer Games last year in Fort McMurray, Alta.

“Definitely some of their skills are showing through,” he said. “I’m looking at them for, of course, leadership to help organize these squads. A lot of the kids don’t get to play outdoor soccer very often, so positioning will be a little strange for them. So we’re just trying to get everybody organized.”

Daniel DaRosa, one of the six boys from Hay River at the camp, played soccer for the NWT at the Western Canada Summer Games last year and at the Arctic Winter Games in 2014.

“I think soccer in Hay River and even in the South Slave in general has improved a lot,” said the 17-year-old Grade 11 student at Diamond Jenness. “When I first moved here probably four years ago, the soccer was at a way lower level.”

However, he said that, just through practising at school and by playing outside soccer, the players from Hay River did really well at the camp.

“I mean not all of them made it but they definitely have improved a lot,” he said.

Players who attended the Hay River camp will be notified early this week if they will be invited to the September camp in Yellowknife.

At that camp, each team will be narrowed down to 21 or 22 members.

–Paul Bickford