Quest University’s athletic department and the Squamish Youth Soccer Association have teamed up to get kids on the pitch in spring.
It’s part of an agreement between Quest and the SYSA from last year that looks at creating more opportunities for youngsters.
“We’ve just added a new spring program,” said men’s soccer coach Alexander Elliott. “It’s a seven-week program.”
The program, aimed at kids born between 2004 and 2011, offers them benefits such as access to Quest’s facilities and their coaching staff. It started last week and will run through June 13, offering training as well as mini-games.
“Kids get one training session a week with Quest players and staff, so they get that mentorship aspect working with the student-athletes,” Elliott said. “We feel that’s the biggest benefit.”
One of the advantages of the program is that it offers kids playing a different sport during the winter months the chance to play soccer, as it does for those wanting to play soccer throughout the year. Last Thursday, some of the younger children were on the pitch working with former Olympian Martina Franko.
“We’re just trying to extend the soccer season, when the spring gets beautiful,” she said.
A class earlier in the week had up to 36 players, but this group, with 16, was relatively small – and mostly boys. Franko said she would like to see more children, especially girls, take part, as kids can still come out for the program.
With the youngest group, she started the players with a tag-style game to get them used to running around the pitch before moving onto a “beehive” game in which the kids have to try to move more balls, one at a time, across a mini-field than the other team, first by carrying them, then with their feet.
From there, it was onto more familiar soccer skills for the kids, such as dribbling the ball through small orange cones placed around the field.
“We do more skill-based soccer, trying to teach them dribbling and passing and get them lots of touches on the ball,” Franko said.
As well as the drills, the youngsters also get a chance to scrimmage, and on Saturdays, the focus is on games.
Franko has been handling a lot of the practices, with help from other coaches.
“We’ll have different coaches throughout the spring,” she said.
For Quest, such opportunities offer the athletics program a chance to connect with the Squamish community.
“It’s great to be involved in the community, and that’s really the key piece for Quest,” Elliott said.
He said the key to the program is how the kids interact and look up to the student-athletes in mentorship roles.
“Our student athletes can interact with youth and get them inspired,” he said.
Quest and the SYSA started the partnership approximately a year ago to provide camps in the summer, academy-style training in the fall and winter, and now the spring program. They have also looked for other ways to involve youth soccer, such as walkouts on game day to accompany the Quest team as it takes the pitch or having the children play at halftime.