Ponoka’s Leah Jensen (#71) thwarts an attack from the University of Alberta squad during the exhibition game played Sunday

Ponoka’s Leah Jensen (#71) thwarts an attack from the University of Alberta squad during the exhibition game played Sunday

Inaugural soccer camp unqualified success

The first of its kind soccer camp in Ponoka held over the weekend has come off as a grand success.

The first of its kind soccer camp in Ponoka held over the weekend has come off as a grand success.

The Crazy 8 Sports college showcase soccer camp took place at the Lucas Heights fields over the weekend and generated huge interest from both players and the coaches who attended the event in search of recruiting players.

Organizer Lonny Behm explained the concept for the showcase was a result of wanting to accomplish a couple of goals.

“It was an idea I’ve been working on for a while,” said Behm, who had coached tier I girls in Red Deer before taking on coaching in Ponoka a few years ago.

“I noticed that there were so many good players in Ponoka and other rural areas that weren’t getting the same opportunity, the same shot at being seen by colleges, universities and other elite programs. It’s also something that us in Ponoka can hang our hat on as bringing people here, showing what the community can offer and help continue to grow soccer here.”

The camp drew a lot of local male and female players, but also reached as far away as British Columbia and Saskatchewan in attracting nearly double the number of players Behm anticipated getting for the inaugural camp.

“It was fantastic see the players coming from all over western Canada,” he said.

“Originally, my vision was to have 44 players 22 boys and 22 girls, but the idea for the camp simply exploded on social media.”

As the word showcase implies, the camp focused on having the players demonstrate their skills and talent through game action in a series of exhibition matches with players being separated into different teams for the weekend.

Behm added it was truly amazing how things came together, having spent many hours on the phone reaching out to coaches and other soccer contacts he has made over the years to gauge the interest level for such a camp.

“Setting this up was tough, spending hours on the phone talking to schools and coaches all over asking them to give the camp a chance,” he explained.

“And they bought it, then told me they were so amazed at how the camp was put on, the support we had from a great group of sponsors and the calibre of players that were there. We have made some big inroads with many of the schools, developed some really good relationships and I hope we have put soccer in our area on the map.”

Behm has plans to bring the camp back again next year, hopefully much bigger and better. It might also include a couple of other initiatives that would further raise the profile of soccer in the Ponoka, but he didn’t want to specify what that would all entail as the details have yet to be worked out with the parties involved.

The camp also handed out a pair of $250 awards with the female award going to a player from Swift Current, Saskatchewan and Ponoka’s Lewis McDowell receiving the male award.