Two-a-day games and drills over four days with coaches from the Major League Soccer Vancouver Whitecaps charting their every move.
So it went for Vernon’s Ava Wright and Kaiden Sherwood at the recent BC Soccer High Performance Program (HPP) camp.
The 12-year-olds joined Andrea Kraetzer of Kelowna from the Thompson Okanagan FC in the girls portion of the sessions.
The HPP is designed to support the EA Sports BC Soccer Premier League along with Whitecaps FC Residency and BC REX Programs. It is a platform for high-performance youth J Jo be assessed by both Whitecaps FC and Canada Soccer.
“I think I did pretty well,” said Wright, born in Columbus, Ohio when her father, Tyler, was playing hockey for the NHL Blue Jackets. “We had one game with referees and we learned a lot of things all week: on shooting and attacking on the first day and defending the second day.
“I was really nervous at first, but I felt more comfortable the more I touched the ball.”
The Grade 7 Kidston student got into soccerr in Li’l Kickers.
“I loved it when I was younger. I just loved running around. I liked it right away.”
Wright, who also plays school basketball and volleyball, lists her passing skills and wheels as strong traits on the wing.
“I need a better shot and I need to learn different skills with the ball to help my game.”
Wright, who has a Sept. 14 birthday, is a soccer sponge: she watches Big 10 college women’s soccer on TV and follows Real Madrid and Barcelona on the pro stage.
A strong student aiming for a soccer scholarship “anywhere,” Wright played up with the TOFC U13s last season. She assisted on the insurance goal in TOFC’s 3-1 win over the Coastal Selects in the Provincial Cup at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl.
Sherwood, in Grade 7 at Harwood, laughs that she was somewhat of an emotional wreck in Li’l Kickers.
“I got upset when my team didn’t score and I didn’t score and when they took the ball away me,” she smiled. “I ran to my parents (Jennifer and Jason).”
Sherwood rose through the Rep Development system and is today a striker or attacking midfielder who can play anywhere.
“I’m really fast and I try different moves: slow down, speed up and cut in the middle, and do different tricks.”
She pocketed seven goals with TOFC last season and hopes for more this year after the Vancouver HPP camp.
“There were a lot of really skilled players and we had one humungous game; it was a really good experience. I was a bit nervous and I had a few scoring chances. I went against one of my own defenders from TOFC (Kraetzer) and we were talking about the weather on the field.”
Sherwood, who turns 13 the day before Valentine’s Day, has an older sister – Emily Kronbauer – playing college soccer for the Keyano Huskies in Fort McMurray.
“I think I wanna go all the way to the top and play for Canada: think big.”
Sherwood, who plays hoops and downhill skis, is striving for improvement.
“I want to be more confident on when to go, one-vee-one. Instead of passing the ball and moving back, I want to be doing some cool moves.”
Kai Tolpinrud, general manager of the TOFC, watches Wright and Sherwood get better everyday. He was ecstatic since TOFC sent 16 players to the camp.
“We got some really good feedback about all our kids,” said Tolpinrud. “We’re extremely happy with the way the kids are developing. It’s a big plus for the entire region. We’re not bottom feeders anymore. Their skill and how they adapted to the speed says a lot about our program.”
He said the EA Sports BC Soccer Premier League gives elite players the best possible environment for player identification by Canada Soccer and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Wright and Sherwood may play for B.C. in a spring break tournament against either Alberta or Saskatchewan.