About 100 soccer athletes converged on Ponoka last weekend to show off their skills to college and university coaches.
The event was held by Crazy 8 Sports with the purpose of showcasing the soccer players with potential to make college teams. This is the second year of the showcase, explained owner Lonny Behm, who is also on the board of directors for Ponoka Storm. “We had 16 (coaches) come in this year.”
The coaches came in from all over western Canada with some from down in the United States, explained Behm. The weekend started with practices on Friday, showcase games on the Saturday then awards and a special exhibition game with the University of Alberta Junior Pandas playing Ponoka’s female team on the Sunday.
“We started it for our rural community kids,” said Behm, adding that many have the skills to make it to a college team.
There were players from Saskatchewan and British Columbia as well as Alberta, said Behm. A key benefit of the showcase is that these athletes can benefit from scholarships if they are picked on a team.
“Last year we had over $80,000 offered in scholarships, this year we hope to get a little more,” said Behm.
He pointed out that some kids may not know how to start the process to get into college with their soccer skills. “(It’s) giving them the opportunity to showcase themselves.”
Behm added that seeing local Ponoka Storm players be recognized by scouts was a plus. Ponoka’s Dylan Bouma accepted a scholarship, which will help pay for his tuition at Olds College.
“When we started the showcase, I thought if we got one kid to go to school, it would be fantastic,” said Behm, adding that several athletes are now on their way up.
Niels Slotboom, assistant coach for the Olds College Broncos, says there’s nothing really like the showcase, which is vital for rural athletes hoping to be found. Ponoka’s location is also ideal because of its central location.
“Having something like this here where everybody is here for the same reason is great,” said Slotboom. “Everybody knows that we’re here. This is what we’re looking for.”
He pointed out that sometimes with tournaments, athletes forget about the scouting that goes on behind these scenes. In Crazy 8 Sports’ case, games are played to highlight athletes’ skills.
“From our school perspective alone, we had two recruits in the same year,” said Slotboom.
Spending a couple days at the showcase brought players who impacted the team positively, he added. For a college coach, that’s a win-win situation.
Outstanding male player: Lewis McDowell of Ponoka Storm
Outstanding female player: Erin Gill of Red Deer AMSL; both received a $250 cash award
Heart and Hustle award: Tarren Russell of the Prince Albert Celtics