Veteran Whitecaps soccer player Sam Lenarduzzi can recall a moment when he thought of switching roles from a professional soccer player to a coach.
While travelling in between games, he was paired with a younger player who was in his late teens.
He saw little bit of himself in the junior player.
“[I was] thinking to myself, ‘Wow, it might be time for me to step aside and let the younger ones do their thing,’” he said.
In the years that followed, Lenarduzzi, who has a place in the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, would eventually make the switch from playing on the field for the Vancouver Whitecaps to becoming the man helping train the team’s next generation of players.
“It was just natural for me to go into coaching,” he said.
As the regional manager for Whitecaps youth programs, Lenarduzzi hopes to bring a helping hand to aspiring players at the team’s youth soccer camps this summer.
The summer program, which has kicked off this week in Squamish, will be featuring what one of the head coaches calls the “Whitecaps way.”
It’s a program of positive reinforcement, says Graham Murphy, who’s in charge of the Squamish programs.
There will be a celebrity appearance thrown into the mix.
There’s expected to be a guest appearance from Whitecaps player Tim Parker.
The Whitecaps chose Parker with the 13th overall pick on the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
Before that, he helped St. John’s on the way to three straight NCAA tournament appearances between 2011 and 2013.
It’ll all be part of the positive environment Murphy hopes the camp will provide.
“The first thing we do is we prepare the players for how to train,” said Murphy. “They’re coming out to work hard and have fun — with the emphasis of having fun.”
Players are never put down, he added. Rather, the camp focuses on rewarding good habits.
However, there has been a little bit of a rough spot for the Whitecaps youth soccer programs as of late.
Global News ran a story last month regarding players at a Whitecaps youth program accused of sexually assaulting a teammate.
Police have become involved in the matter.
“Burnaby RCMP confirmed that two youths have each been charged with one count of sexual assault,” wrote Sgt. Derek Thibodeau to The Chief in an email. “Their names are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. No other details have been released.”
The Whitecaps have released a statement, which said the players’ actions were in contravention of the club’s code of conduct.
“Two players involved were immediately put on indefinite suspension by the club and the matter was referred to RCMP,” the statement reads. “The safety and well being of our players is our top priority and we have been cooperating fully with the RCMP investigation.”
Lenarduzzi said he couldn’t provide further comment on the matter, because of the ongoing investigation.
Academies in different communities have the same curriculum, but are run by different head coaches.