The Kootenay South Youth Soccer Association teamed up with Whitecaps FC coach Drissa Bouare who put the U17 Select girls team through a workout at the association’s first Spring Training camp at the Sunningdale field on Wednesday.

Kootenay South youth soccer kicks off spring training

"Spring training is a brand new concept. Usually rep soccer starts with tryouts." ~ Fred Fontaine

Kootenay South Youth Soccer Association (KSYSA) opened its soccer season with a new strategy.

KSYSA teamed up with Whitecaps FC Academy and professional coach Drissa Bouare to kick off the season with a spring training camp for their Select programs.

“Over the last year we’ve been talking with the Whitecaps and working with them on how we can integrate them into our program,” said KSYSA select team director Fred Fontaine. “Spring training is a brand new concept. Usually rep soccer starts with tryouts. This year, I said, ‘You can do your tryouts, but we’re doing spring training first.’ There’s no pressure on the kids, they come out, have some fun, and dust your boots off from the winter.”

The Whitecaps FC runs programs across BC including Trail-Castlegar, Nelson, Golden, and Cranbrook, but had yet to tackle a regional organization like KSYSA that includes teams from Beaver Valley, Trail, Rossland, and Castlegar.

“It’s a little bit different,” said Fontaine. “We wanted a little more in a Kootenay-South-made program. So we’ve hired them to primarily develop our coaches, and to bring all of our coaches onto the same page, so we’re providing consistancy across the association.”

KSYSA teams depend on volunteers to act as coaches, many, understandably, with little experience. So the association brought in Bouare to guide the program and give instruction not only to the players, but to the coaches as well.

“We have a lot of volunteers, but a lot of times the volunteers aren’t necessarily soccer players,” said Fontaine. “By bringing in the Whitecaps we’re doing coaches development sessions in each community, so Drissa will be moving amongst the communities (for the sessions). We’ll also be doing player development sessions where Drissa will get out and run the sessions, and the coach can kind of stand back and see how it’s done – not just how it’s done, but how it’s done the Whitecap way.”

While Bouare will work with all levels of the Select program, the focus has been on the younger divisions and its players’ and coaches’ development. KSYSA has been running coaching clinics for U6 to U13 coaches since March, and will continue through April.

“A big part of it . . . when we go to tournaments in other places, we’re playing against teams that train year round, they have professional coaching, and the kids want to go, they want to compete, but if we don’t give them the tools, by getting the tools ourselves as coaches, how is it fair to them?”

The Whitecaps FC provincial director Bart Charfour agrees with Fontaine, recognizing the importance of raising the level of play across the board.

“In order to develop players you have to raise the overall level,” Choufour told the Times during a prospect Academy in Trail in October. “There are special players in every community, but those players need to be surrounded by other players who are striving for excellence and so you can create the right training environment.”

A week into the two-week spring training, the U17 Select girls team has clearly embraced the new strategy and are responding to the fast-paced workouts, a veritable ballet of non-stop ball movement, attacking and defending, tackling, and shooting, implemented by Bouare and the U17 coach.

“Drissa, being a professional coach, he knows,” said Fontaine. “It’s all game based, it’s not just drills anymore.”

The Selects director is happy with the affiliation and looks forward to the continued evolution of KSYSA’s relationship with the Whitecaps FC program and its benefits for both the players that are competitive and those whose goal is simply to enjoy the beautiful game.

“Kids are loving it,” said Fontaine. “We had our practice yesterday with the U14 boys, and one kid comes off and he’s like, ‘That was the best practice ever!’ and you know what, they didn’t stop moving the whole time.”

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