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Soccer program helps local youngsters kick it up a notch

Recently, more than 400 youngsters on 30 teams from across the Lakeland region participated in a soccer tournament to learn new skills and play, while a handful of invested youth ready for professional training had an opportunity to learn from professional coaches.

LAC LA BICHE - More than 400 youngsters on 30 teams from across the Lakeland region participated in a soccer tournament to learn new skills and play, earlier this month.  

The event ran from May 13-15, and was hosted at the Lac La Biche Bold Center Sports fields by Alberta Surf Soccer, a North America-wide organization offering training and athletic opportunities for young athletes. The Soccerfest featured a weekend series of tournament games for players in U7 to U11 levels and training sessions for older players. The event was was entirely free for all the athletes.  

On Sunday, after the last game of the fun tournament for the younger players, Alberta Surf’s experienced coaches — including Claude Bolton, the former coach of the Portage College Voyageurs men’s soccer team —  provided elite-level training courses for older players. 

In a rural community where youth don’t always have access to that level of training, or can't afford it, the Surf connection makes it possible, giving the young players a chance to train like professional athletes and be connected to programs, said Bolton, Surf’s sporting director who has 20 years of experience coaching professional teams and playing collegiate soccer in the American NCAA Division 2 as a young adult. 

“It gives access to some players who might never be on the field with a professional coach,” Bolton told, explaining that the principles behind the Surf Soccer program are to engage young athletes, train them and even help them reach higher levels in the sport through professional scouting opportunities. 

The youth worked with Bolton and coach Chris Morgan, another expert coach with has decades of experience coaching professional and collegiate teams. 

For local soccer clubs, Bolton and Morgan bring a level of experience to youth soccer that rural communities can benefit from, said Glenda Bouvier, the president of the Lac La Biche Football Club (LLBFC, explaining that with the recent successes of Canada’s national teams on the world stage, more youngsters are getting involved with the sport 

“We’ve had lots of questions and kids, especially with the men’s and women’s national teams doing so well. There are a lot of kids aspiring to walk down that path, saying, ‘Hey that could be one day’, and so these guys are almost a little passageway to help facilitate that dream,” Bouvier said. 

Professional support 

Watching the enthusiasm of the young players in the tournament and the skills of the older athletes in the training camps, Surf’s sporting director was impressed. 

“There is more passion in these communities in northern Alberta than people are aware of…this is real football, these are real children and they’re equal to anyone anywhere else, and point-blank they need more opportunities period.” 

Rural connection  

Knowing the region from his work with creating the Portage College soccer program in 2019, Bolton says he has seen the sport grow and the opportunities grow for young players looking to play at a college level. He hopes to use the Surf Soccer network to bring even more opportunities to the region.  

“Surf is committed to working towards supporting more rural youth and their development. It can mean just creating local tournaments to gain skill or even working towards a future plan to play competitively.” 

With the success of the first tournament and the hundreds of participants, Bolton hopes to take a kick at making the event an annual one. 

“It would be a great annual event because it could be a great kickoff to the outdoor soccer season,” he said. 

About the Author: Rahma Dalmar

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