Soccer continues to grow in the East Kootenay, especially with the presence of the Whitecaps Kootenay East Prospects Academy.
Based out of Cranbrook, the academy now boasts 120 players, all of whom were hand-picked and selected to participate in the developmental program.
With its continued progression, the Kootenay East Academy was graced this past weekend with the presence of the experienced and well-travelled Bart Choufour — Whitecaps FC director and head coach of academy and pre-residency — as he visited Cranbrook to run players through a variety of skill sessions Saturday, Oct. 17 at Moir Park.
“It’s a level of advice that I give to players and, at the same time, also to coaches. That is to allow players to be creative and express themselves,” Choufour said over the phone from Vancouver Wednesday afternoon. “Get on the ball and play a game of soccer that is always played with purpose — not just kicking the ball and hoping something will happen. Really play with purpose and try to play a skillful game. That’s the best way for any player to get themselves to the next level.”
That approach is exactly what Choufour worked on with players this past weekend in his first visit to Cranbrook — running them through a variety of drills and sessions that focused on strong individual habits, such as receiving and turning, running with the ball, vision, awareness and communication.
Choufour, born in Surabaja, Indonesia, but raised in Haarlem, Netherlands, is no spring chicken when it comes to the game of European football.
Having worked with youth development programs in Europe and British Columbia, he earned his first coaching badges in Amsterdam, as well as graduating from the Academy for Physical Education. He has since obtained his Canadian Soccer Assocation National ‘A’ license — the top level of coaching in Canadian soccer.
In his role with the Whitecaps, Choufour uses his expertise to design the curriculum, philosophy and methodology for all of the Whitecaps’ academy centres spread across western Canada.
“There are a lot of really athletic players and that’s a really good start,” Choufour said of his observations following his first visit to the Cranbrook prospect centre.
“If I compare to the last time I saw players from Cranbrook, I think they’ve made some real good strides. There are players from the Kootenays trickling into the BC SPL, which is the premier league in British Columbia.
“I can see players from Cranbrook making that step [in the future] as well.”
Choufour has worked within amateur soccer in B.C. in a variety of capacities and with a variety of organizations, prior to his current stint with the Whitecaps, which began in 2007.
In his role, he strives to make three visits per year (once per season — fall, winter and spring) to the entire Kootenays region, whether that be to visit Nelson, where the Whitecaps Kootenay West Prospect Centre resides, or to visit Cranbrook.
Choufour is based out of Vancouver.
“The people of Cranbrook have really taken to the Whitecaps,” said Brett Adams, Whitecaps Kootenay regional head coach. “
“The Cranbrook East Centre has grown over the last year.”
As it stands, there are are 340 prospects playing in three centres throughout the Kootenays — 130 based out of Nelson, 120 based out of Cranbrook and 90 based out of Castlegar/Trail.
Additionally, the Whitecaps run a Skills Academy out of Fernie.