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Whitecaps rolling in

Local soccer ace Martina Franko will be bringing an all-star cast of Whitecaps players to Squamish this summer, but they won't be playing in a game.

Local soccer ace Martina Franko will be bringing an all-star cast of Whitecaps players to Squamish this summer, but they won't be playing in a game.

Instead of playing, Franko and several members of the men's and women's Whitecaps soccer clubs will teach young players in an elite soccer program to be held at the Centennial Fields from July 26 to 30.

"Our goal is to make this a highly-skilled camp to improve future players in Squamish and to develop strong players for the provincial and Canadian level," said Franko, a Squamish resident and Whitecaps striker. "I think that having coaches that have played at a professional level will serve as great role models for the players."

The Squamish Soccer Academy is open to both boys and girls from ages eight to 15, and will be geared toward skills development for players who are keen to improve. The number of Whitecaps players coming to Squamish for the five-day intense soccer program will depend on the number of players who enroll in the academy. For players who have a true passion for soccer and the drive to succeed, a 'high-performance' category will be offered.

Franko has been a Squamish resident for five years, and is introducing the Squamish Soccer Academy to the community after a successful stint as a coach and organizer of the Girls Soccer Academy (GSA) in her hometown of Los Altos, California. Franko and her sister Regina Holan, who will be competing on Greece's 2004 Summer Olympic soccer team, taught and coached hundreds of students during the program's six-year span.

"I wanted to get involved with the Squamish soccer community because there's so much potential," she said. "I live here and I want to help the program progress even further. The Squamish Soccer Association is very-well organized already and I want to help with the coaching aspect in player development."

As a player, Franko has been known throughout her career as a strong, goal-scoring striker. She finished second on the all-time scoring list at the Colorado College with 107 points, and captured All-America honours in her final two years. She was the runaway scoring leader of the California-based Women's Professional Soccer League (WPSL) in 2002, scoring 15 goals and 5 assists over 14 games as a rookie to pace the California Storm of Sacramento to the WPSL Championship. She finished first in goals, with nearly double that of the next highest scorer, and second in assists, and was named a WPSL All-Star. Before signing with Sacramento, Holan spent time with the San Jose CyberRays of first-division WUSA during their 2002 preseason. She has been playing for the Whitecaps Women for two seasons, and is currently the tied for the team lead with seven goals and two assists in seven games.

"It's an intense training atmosphere and an amazing experience to play and practice with the players we have on our team," she said. "I've learned to battle through difficult times when things aren't going the way you'd like them to, and to overcome these challenges."

Although soccer has been the main athletic focus in her life, she is also an exceptional all-around athlete who has found a healthy balance by pursuing her other passions- skiing, climbing and travel. In 1998, she left for France with telemark skis and backcountry gear in hand to explore Chamonix and the French Alps. It was there that she met her husband-to-be Johnny Franko, an avid Squamish skier and climber. She won the 2000 Telemark Freeskiing Championships in Colorado, and moved to Squamish on a full-time basis to climb.

To register for the Squamish Soccer Academy, please contact Brennan Park at 604-898-3604. For further details, Martina can be reached at martinafranko@hotmail.com.