The term student-athlete is being taken to another level as three local soccer players sign athletic scholarships.
Sarah Engler, Noah Samsonoff from Cranbrook and Sarah Brooks-White of Kimberley are all in the Whitecaps FC Kootenay Academy “Caps to College” program, and signed with universities across the country.
“It was really exciting, and just a lot of relief as well because it’s something you work towards for so long, and to finally be able to get it is really nice,” said Samsonoff.
The excitement was in the air for the student-athletes when they described what they were feeling.
“It’s really exciting after all the hard work we have put in the last few years, especially, as we have been getting more serious,” said Engler.
All three players committed to their respective schools via telephone.
“After I hung up the phone, I remember I was so excited I was tearing up because I was so happy it finally happened .. just a lot of relief and excitement,” explained Brooks-White.
Choosing which school to go to a big decision for any Grade 12 student, and it was no different for these student-athletes.
Brooks-White has signed with Nipissing University, which is in North Bay, Ont. Before making her decision she went on a recruiting trip earlier in the year that helped her make the decision.
“There I was able to really see the university and meet the coaches and team in person. There is only so much you can figure out about a university through pictures and so much you can know about people through talking on the phone. Through that experience I was really able to fall in love with the university I’m going to. I really like my coaches and the teammates I was able to practice with, were really great people,” she explained.
Engler has chosen to sign with Concordia University in Montreal. She was debating between a couple of schools, but Concordia was her final decision based on the academics they offered.
“I very much chose the school academically and then let soccer support it,” she said. “I’m going into behavioral neuroscience, so that was the program I wanted to get into, and that was my goal. To have soccer and be able to play there too was a bonus.”
Samsonoff had his eye on the University of Lethbridge and says he was in contact with the coach for the last two years.
“I just had gotten to really like him and get to know him. Through the few camps I had been to in Lethbridge I really liked the team, the university and what they had to offer,” he said.
All three have players have been in the Whitecaps Academy for five years. Throughout those years the athletes have seen their hard work from soccer grow into opportunities.
“It feels rewarding,” said Brooks-White about what makes soccer special to her, with all the fitness training, practices and games.
“That feeling you get after a game and you felt you played really well, or we won a big game. That feeling is just like no other feeling.”
The hard work put into soccer is what made Samsonoff continue with the sport.
“It’s a lot of fun and I like the hard work you have to put in on and off the field. It’s nice to have that kind of commitment,” he said.
Receiving these scholarships to schools all across the country are giving these athletes to the opportunity to explore places they may not have been to yet.
“There’s a lot of emotions for sure moving halfway across the country,” said Brooks-White. “But, I think if you have the opportunity I feel like why wouldn’t you? It will be such a cool experience to not only play soccer at a university that is very different from the average university around here, and experiencing a new part of Canada.”
Finishing up high school and preparing for this next step in their lives is going to be key moving forward. All the athletes have their pre-season training and will be focusing on finishing up their high school careers.
To see the athletes in the Whitecaps program take advantage of these opportunities is something head coach Sam Heap is really proud to see.
“To get to see them go on and do what they have done has been phenomenal, not just for themselves, but it now gives other players in the area role models to attain to be,” he said.
“It’s wonderful seeing how much hard work they have put in. They have all gone above and beyond, not just on the playing front, their commitment to helping soccer in the area has been amazing.”
Seeing three players from the East Kootenay get the scholarships is a testament of what the “Caps to College” program is all about.
Last year they implemented the program when Heap says he saw a void of players not being ready for the next step or have the opportunities.
“I’m looking for more success stories coming out. There’s going to be more, the depth we have — we have some really talented players coming up,” said Heap.
Out in the west and south, there are also multiple players who are going on to play post-secondary.