Pacific FC takes helm of Wave youth program

Pacific FC has ventured away from the usual North American model of pro player development in sports such as hockey, basketball and football.

In the latter, players are developed by collegiate leagues such as the NCAA or Canadian Hockey League, scouted by pro leagues, and then selected through an entry draft.

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The system of development for pro soccer clubs worldwide, however, is more organic and involves developing their own players beginning at a young age through club academies.

Pacific FC, the Island-based club of the pro Canadian Premier League, has begun to build that system by taking over guidance of the existing Vancouver Island Wave high-performance program for boys and girls players 13- to 18-years-old.

PFC president and co-owner Josh Simpson described a pro soccer club as an “eco system.”

He said Pacific FC has begun nurturing its own by this move to take leadership of the Island Wave program.

“This is a huge building block, a huge step forward in doing that,” said Simpson, who came out of Juan de Fuca and left home as a young teen to play pro soccer all over Europe.

“This is close to my heart because it is a system I wish I would have had growing up,” added Simpson, who was capped 43 times for Canada.

“The CPL was established to develop football in this fashion across the country and, for us at PFC, specifically on the Island. We have the full support of all the Island [youth soccer] associations for this move.”

The PFC dream is to create an Island parallel to Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps Academy and Residency programs.

“We are taking this [Island Wave] program forward and looking to provide a competitive development environment for the players,” said Pacific FC technical director and assistant coach James Merriman, who spent seven years coaching in the Whitecaps Academy.

“Our goal is for the Wave program to provide youth with national team experiences, post-secondary opportunities and overall be a centre of excellence.”

And, of course, to be a source of potential upcoming talent for PFC.

The pro CPL club has installed an impressively experienced coaching staff for the Wave program.

“Vancouver Island has a strong soccer community and we are particularly excited about the variety of coaching staff we have for our players in this program,” said Merriman.

“We’ve assembled a roster of more than 20 of the top coaches on the Island and our players are going to benefit from their expertise.”

The new Wave coaching staff will include Canada-capped current PFC players Marcel de Jong and Jamar Dixon and former pro players Riley O’Neill, Mark Village and Ryan McCurdy, the latter two who played for PFC last season.

“A soccer club is just that — a club — from youth level to the current first-team pros in league play through to alumni players who stay active and involved in coaching the young players in the club,” said Simpson.

“Soccer clubs are full circle.”

Training will be abetted by the PFC-built $5.5-million training facility in Langford. The 55,000 square-foot structure is the largest indoor field house in the province and will offer soccer, futsal, baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball once sport reopens after the pandemic.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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