Fernie local Ethan Blair is just one of seven Kootenay boys and girls that have been chosen to be a part of the Whitecaps FC Kootenay Academy. The program gives young soccer players the chance to train and learn with other athletes from all over the Kootenays, and exposes them to the world of Major League Soccer (MLS).
“The organisation is trying to get players from the Kootenays to get better and try to make them into MLS players to put them on the Whitecaps team in the future,” explained Ethan.
The Kootenay Academy program runs from September through April and includes eight training weekends in Nelson and four travel events. The first event took Ethan to Vancouver for the weekend where he got to hang out with other athletes from all over B.C., and of course, the Whitecaps themselves. “We got to meet a few of the players and get signatures and stuff, and we got to go on the field to watch them practise too,” remarked Ethan. “It was really fun, but it was also lots of work.”
Being a part of the Whitecaps Academy not only gives kids the chance to become a part of an MLS team in the future, but the opportunity to practise in a more competitive setting. All training sessions are developed by Whitecaps FC professional coaching staff and delivered in partnership with Soccer Quest.
For Ethan, living in Fernie, where soccer is strictly a summer sport, the program also provides him with the chance to play his favourite sport year round. “I like soccer because it just has so much action packed into it, and it’s a long, good game, it’s not really short,” said Ethan. “I just like being out on the field with the ball going around.”
This is the first year for Kootenay Academy, which is part of a network of Whitecaps FC Academy Centres. Over 100 players and staff from all over the province took part in the weekend event in Vancouver.