They said they would be back and they made good on that promise.

The Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer made its return appearance in the capital this past weekend with the second Whitecaps FC Academy camp, this time outdoors at William McDonald Field. This past weekend followed the first academy camp at the Fieldhouse last October.

Robbie Tice, the team’s associate head coach of mainland academy centres in B.C., was the guest coach for the weekend and he said the outdoor sessions were a continuation of what happened indoors last year.

“It’s definitely meant to build off what happened back then,” he said. “I’ve only been with the club for six weeks so far, so early days for me, but they filled me in on how everything went for the first trip and just hoped to build on that for this trip.”

Ayanna Darku dribbles the ball upfield during a mini-game as part of the Whitecaps FC Academy camp at William McDonald Field on Sunday.
James McCarthy/NNSL photo

While the camp was advertised as an outdoor one, Mother Nature tossed her wrench into things for part of it and that meant indoors to the Fieldhouse for portions of the weekend’s activities.

The players were split into two groups based on age with 12 players in each group, something Tice said wasn’t intentional, but worked out in the end.

“We’d like to be able to build our numbers working into the next camp but it was ideal to have 12 and 12 in each group,” he said. “It gave me a chance to really get to know the players here, work with them and spend three days and five sessions with them. It’s in and out basically in terms of travel so it was good to be able to engage them.”

Having a smaller coach-to-player ratio was a bonus as well, he added.

“You obviously want to impact the players as much as you can in a short amount of time and that’s what we hope to do,” he said.

The camp featured the usual fare of dribbling, shooting and footwork drills and finished up with the players taking part in mini-games on Sunday afternoon.

Tice said he wanted them to learn the ‘Whitecaps Way’.

“We spent a lot of time of attacking principles for the last couple of sessions,” he said. “Possession with a purpose and really encouraging the players to dribble as much as they can and try some new things. That’s what I really wanted the players to do and if they made mistakes, that’s OK. They’re trying to play the right way and that’s what we’re looking for.”

The improvement was obvious to Tice and he said starting from sight unseen on Friday evening to the final session on Sunday showed how much they had improved.

“Five sessions in 48 hours is never easy, especially for a young player, but there’s been large improvements from everyone and I have some positive reports heading back to Vancouver,” he said.

NWT Soccer entered into a partnership with the Whitecaps in August 2018 to help create an official academy program in Yellowknife. It’s not yet known when the next academy camp will be.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...