Riland Keevik streaks past an opposing player on Saturday at the East Three gym.
Nick Pearce / NNSL photo

Youth across the region laced up for a futsal camp at East Three this weekend.

For head coach Julia Phelan and assistant coach Thomas Laboucan-Avirom, it was more than quick primer on indoor soccer. The coaches came to gauge the talent in the region’s communities, and to teach new players they basics of the game and “why we find it so much fun,” she said.

“We just kind of came out here looking to see who we have, and when we see who we have, make sure they learn something this week,” Phelan said.

She said her coaching method is to go back to the basics and ensure each player has a strong understanding of soccer’s fundamentals. How to pass properly and shoot with perfect form is essential.

“Maybe you’re good and have skill at the sport, but you could have wrong form,” she said. “Bringing it back to the basics puts everyone on an even level and then you can build from there.”

Some players will pick it up quickly and already have the skills, but some youth only need an opportunity to learn.

“It brings the whole level of the group up.”

That makes games easier — the last hour of the camp’s session is dedicated to scrimmage, where players put skills to the test, implementing techniques and tactics they learned from the coaches.

“Here’s everything you learned this weekend. Show us how to do it all,” Phelan said about the game.

However, the most important thing was that “they learn something and have fun. It’s not fun to go somewhere and everything’s too hard and you don’t learn anything and you go away thinking, ‘that wasn’t fun, I didn’t get to do anything.’”

Soccer was always a constant in Phelan’s life. Even when she moved schools, she always had her friends in the sport. Her coach was also a support.

“If I ever needed anything I could go talk to her, even if it wasn’t soccer related, she was an outlet and a support system,” she said. “I definitely want to be that kind of person for kids.”

The camp could help players who come from a low income background or who didn’t have the opportunity to play in their home community. The camp gives them a chance to learn the sport that “really helped me when I was a kid,” she said.

Laboucan-Avirom, on the other hand, didn’t find soccer until he was in his early teens.

Head coach Julia Phelan and assistant coach Thomas Laboucan-Avirom led youth through soccer lessons this weekend at East Three.
Nick Pearce / NNSL Photo

“On my reserve, it was mostly hockey and floor hockey,” he said. But once he started to play soccer, he loved the additional players on the field and playing outside.

“But it’s the emotional learning that comes with it,” he said. The 90 minutes on the field teach endurance differently from hockey. The strategy of setting up shots and passes was particularly interesting to him. “To me, that’s just awesome.”

For Phelan, the game has life skills the youth easily pick up on and learn. “Teamwork is a big one,” she said. “That’s why camps like these are so important, especially for communities that don’t have a large sports team.”

The camp is a place to pick up in life skills without the added pressure of a school environment. “They come here and learn teamwork work from having to pass,” she said, using the example of a player scoring and the team learning they achieved that together. “Those are life skills, and you could tell them in a classroom, … but they don’t get it as much unless they actually play.”

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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