“I think if you really love this sport, you should do all you can to make it your everything.”
That’s the advice Vancouver Whitecaps pro soccer player Tim Parker had for aspiring athletes taking part in soccer camps at Lakeside Park in Nelson on Thuesday morning.
“I’m not from a town as small and close-knit as this — I’m from Hicksville, Long Island in New York — but that’s a town where everybody wants everyone else to do well. I had that community backing me up, and now that I’ve made it they still support me 100 per cent,” he said.
That community support is crucial, he said, and if players work diligently towards their dreams, they could one day find themselves filling his soccer cleats.
“Being drafted by the Whitecaps was amazing,” he said, sharing a story about how he went with his hometown team to US Nationals three times before making the draft. “We never ended up winning but to come from where we were, a couple kids from Hicksville, was a bond and a team I’ll never forget.”
He now has his first few games under his belt, and the 22-year-old has lofty ambitions for his professional career.
Parker answered questions, shared advice and showed off a couple tricks during the visit. He also met with five Whitecaps Academy coaches, many of whom are pursuing coaching opportunities elsewhere and some who are working towards a professional career.
Both Tara Yowek and Hailee Gerun competed this year as U-18 girls, and brought home a silver medal. They’re now using their skills to mentor younger athletes, and plan to continue their pursuits into university.
“It makes you a better player, trying to get this stuff in the kids’ heads, because it gets in your head as well,” Yowek said.
Dylan Bennett, 18, agreed.
“I’ve played soccer since I was a little kid, and my dad’s always been my coach. As I got older it just made sense to go into coaching,” he said.
Many coaches are still aspiring players. Cole Sutherland, 19, is one example.
“I plan to [attend] Thompson Rivers University and try out for the Kamloops team this August. I plan to apply my training and use my best ability to make the team.”
And Max Sombrowski, 20, is already playing at a university in Spokane. He said he admires the Whitecaps’ pedagogical technique.
“I like the way they’re coaching here, how they’re focused on implementing skills and training the kids for the future,” he said.
All five coaches expressed enthusiasm about meeting Parker, who had their players feeling inspired and motivated.
“It’s important the Whitecaps have these camps,” said Parker. “To see some stories and meet the first-team guys. Hopefully I can give them the hope and aspiration to play professionally one day.”