They have all heard about the value of a good foamie and sleeping bag for the B.C. Summer Games, where a gym floor serves as the Holiday Inn from July 19-22 in the Cowichan Valley.
North Okanagan Youth Soccer Association will be represented by six players who play in the Tolko United Rep system.
Carter Leahy, Alexander Jones and Owen Challen will play for Zone 2 (Thompson-Okanagan) boys in Duncan.
Leahy, who just finished Grade 8 at VSS, is a versatile player who can handle outside (wing) fullback, centre midfield or striker.
“I prefer wing because I have lots of speed,” said Leahy, who turned 14 in May. “I’m pretty good with the ball and can make smart passes.”
Leahy recalls hating soccer when he first started as a tyke, but he’s all in now, cheering for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Lionel Messi and Barcelona.
He also runs the 3,000- and 1,500-metre events in track which gives him strong endurance late in soccer matches.
At 5-foot-10, Jones is a skyscraper centre fullback who celebrated his 14th birthday in April.
“I can pass and shoot and I’m pretty fast,” said Jones. “Winning airballs is something I can get better at. I love the competition of soccer, going to tournaments.”
The Grade 8 Kalamalka student who also plays basketball, watches Manchester United Premier League games with his dad, Jonathan, Saturday mornings.
Challen, whose father, Simon, coaches the U15 United boys in Vernon, just completed Grade 8 at Seaton.
“My dad introduced me to the game when I was two or three,” said Challen. “I love it because I have lots of friends in soccer and I’m pretty good at it. I have good touch but I have to work on my shot.”
Owen, who also enjoys downhill skiing and track, says the Zone 2 entry will be an attacking side at the Summer Games. He is a big fan of former Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta Luján.
The father-son rapport is working well on and off the field. Pat Hinds coaches alongside Simon Challen.
“It’s pretty good,” said Owen, who just turned 14. “We have a good relationship. I can question him at home which is nice.”
NOYSA is sending female stars Brianna Li, Jordyn Morris and Brooklyn Routley to Cowichan Valley.
The ferry trek to Vancouver Island may seem dull to Li, a first-degree black belt who fought in the World Tae-kwondo Championships in Ireland last year. She’s prepared for the tough sleeping quarters.
“I’ve camped before with Scouts a few years ago so I’ll make sure to bring a good foamie and sleeping bag,” laughed Li, who turned 15 in April.
Born in China, Li moved to Vernon as a toddler and has developed into an excellent keeper.
“I’ve had an interest in keeper since U11 and I’ve played in net full-time since I was 13. I didn’t like to run. I like to use my hands. I’ve worked lots with (TOFC goalkeeping coach Tolpinrud) Kai. I like to dive straight out and be aggressive. I have a pretty powerful kick but I will go short if my coach tells me to. I can still work on my goal kicks, get longer.”
Li, who tutors a Beairsto student in French for fun money, also plays basketball and Futsal indoor soccer.
Morris, who marks her 15th birthday in November, is another multi-sport athlete, excelling in hockey and squash.
“I’m a striker and I’m working on scoring with both feet,” said Morris. “I’m pretty fast and I wanna improve my shooting. I have a little head-fake move where I just drop my shoulder.”
Morris helped the Seaton Sonics go 2-1 at the Valley junior soccer playdowns. Her first love is hockey so she plays soccer “for conditioning in hockey.”
Routley, who is coached by her father, Greg, and Barry McIntosh with the United U15s, started in Soccer Patch as a “shy kid” who can’t get enough of the beautiful game at 14.
“I play wing, sometimes attacking,” said the Grade 9 VSS student, who has a September birthday. “I definitely use my speed to my advantage to beat my winger, but I’m weak at heading.”
A point guard in hoops, a setter in volleyball and sprinter and high jumper in track and field, Routley loves competing and is blessed with boundless energy. She’s high on the Zone 2 roster.
“We’re definitely all about possession. We try and stay connected and move up the field.”
“This experience is an important development opportunity and stepping stone towards higher level sport competitions,” said David Broadhurst, longtime head coach of TOFC.
“We are extremely proud to have Vernon United players recognized at this level of competition and it highlights the great work that is being done by the North Okanagan Youth Soccer Association and NOYSA’s select level of play by Vernon United. Such opportunities are only available to players participating in a BC soccer affiliated program and it is important for players to be a part of the BC Soccer pathway if they are looking to access genuine ‘high level’ soccer programming.”
There are 2,373 athletes, 453 coaches and 246 officials entered in the Summer Games which features 18 sports and an average age of 14.