Sports

Kicking away winter with soccer academy

Gene Still

It’s been another productive winter soccer season for Carman soccer coach William Hoogerdijk, the founder, main organizer and instructor of the Pembina Valley Panthers Winter Soccer Academy.
“Things are going very well with this year’s academy sessions. Probably the biggest surprise was the large number of players enrolled in the youngest age group in the Winkler sessions. We have 26 players enrolled in the 7-10 age group and they provide a lot of activity and energy for the five coaches during the sessions,” Hoogerdijk said. “While we knew there would be a number of returning players with good skill development from previous years, we have also been pleasantly surprised by a number of highly skilled players in the younger age groups. This provides a great deal of optimism for future growth.
“The other players are coming along nicely in their skill development as well but the contrast in skill may require offering different sessions so that we can group players both by age and skill.”

FOURTH SEASON FOR ACADEMY
This is the fourth season for the academy that got underway last October in Carman and in Schanzenfeld.
Another pleasant surprise for Hoogerdijk has been the development of not only the players at the academy, but the coaching staff as well.
“While I was anticipating this already, I regularly reflect on the way the sessions have gone and I am continually amazed at how the coaches work so well together,” he said “We are very often thinking the same way about development in the players, weaknesses we see, and how to coach the players to overcome those weaknesses.
“There is also a tremendous camaraderie amongst the coaches that allows them to work extremely well together. I believe this is very positive for both the players and parents to witness.”
The academy has approximately 65 players signed up with a few more attending on a drop-in basis.
While Hoogerdijk said organizers prefer having players attending each session regularly for the best opportunity to grow, they have allowed “drop-ins” where room allows.
“Hopefully those players will come to understand that regular attendance allows for continued, gradual growth in a manner that occasional attendance just cannot provide,” he explained.

PLAYERS FROM AROUND REGION
The players range in age from seven to 15-year-olds. Participants hail from across the region including; Notre Dame de Lourdes, Roseisle, Rathwell, Morden, Winkler, Reinfeld, Thornhill, Altona and Carman.
This season sessions have been taking place in Carman at Dufferin Christian School on Saturday afternoons and in Schanzenfeld at Prairie Dale School on Thursday evenings.
The academy will again wrap up for the year at the end of March.
“We will have our usual wrap-up at the Subway South indoor soccer complex at the University of Manitoba on March 26 from 11a.m. to 2 p.m.,” he noted. “It will involve one time slots for the various age groups to warm up, play a game against each other, and then challenge the coaches and parents. This is a very enjoyable way to wrap things up for everyone involved.”
And overall, it’s been another rewarding experience for Hoogerdijk.
“It’s been a very enjoyable season once again. A great opportunity to grow the sport in the area, to meet another very enthusiastic group of players and a very supportive group of parents,” he added. “I’m already looking ahead to other initiatives to continue to grow the sport in the area.”

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GStill@postmedia.com