The Vancouver Whitecaps FC soccer academy is getting ready to launch its program in Terrace again soon, with tryouts coming the end of this month.
The renowned soccer academy expanded to the Northwest just last spring, opening an academy in Terrace and Prince Rupert for soccer players ages 8-18.
This year the Whitecaps brought in a new coach from Scotland to run the Northwest B.C. Academy.
At age 23, Eric Horsburgh moved to Terrace in January this year, after flying up every weekend from Kelowna, September to December, to coach the then-weekend Whitecaps program.
“I love soccer,” said Horsburgh of why he coaches. “I don’t really see it as a job.”
He says he enjoys working with kids, have fun and joking around with them, but he also simply loves the sport, a sport he’s played since he was a kid growing up in Scotland.
“Soccer back in Scotland is like your guys’ hockey. Everybody plays it,” he said, adding that he started coaching there when he was 17, helping start a community team in his small hometown of Pumpherston.
Since then, he’s coached for the Scottish Football Association, got a degree in coaching at the University of the West of Scotland, and was a football analyst (stats man) for an academy in the UK for half a year.
He spent two summers in the U.S. coaching kids camps for Challenger Sports, and after that decided to come to Canada.
“To (get a visa to) stay in America full time is really difficult,” he said, adding that in Scotland there wasn’t much opportunity to work in his field.
“Not in soccer. It’s really, really difficult in Scotland, unless you’re an ex-professional, it’s very difficult for you to get a full time job (in soccer),” he said.
But after getting a two-year visa to Canada, and arriving in March 2017, Horsburgh got a job with the Whitecaps at the Okanagan Prospects Academy in Kelowna.
Then in June, he got a surprise birthday gift — a job offer to the Northwest.
“I was having a proper Scottish breakfast (in Kelowna for my birthday),” said Horsburgh of when his boss phoned, joking that he was really hoping it wasn’t bad news on his birthday.
But instead, his boss offered him weekend work in Terrace, and though Horsburgh didn’t yet know of the distance and travel, he was eager for more experience and took it on.
“That was the first time I ever really heard about Terrace,” he said, noting that he Googled the city right after getting off the phone with his boss.
After weekend trips to coach here from September to December, Horsburgh took the full time job as northwest coach in January, and he’s been running the Whitecaps winter phase since then.
Now he’s gearing up to field tryouts for the spring program at the end of the month.
The Whitecaps website states that only a limited number of players will be selected, and while that’s true and it is a competitive academy, the Terrace program is still new, to which Horsburgh says kids don’t have to be pros to make it in.
“Obviously I want to see that you have talent,” said Horsburgh, “but if you have a good personality, you’re coachable and you’re willing to do the work — and you have fun while you’re doing it, which is a big thing — then I can’t see why you wouldn’t make it,” he said.
“There’s a lot more things than just being good at soccer that we look for.”
The spring phase will be a 12-month academy program, scheduled consecutively with the Terrace Youth Soccer Association so kids can easily do both.