Penticton soccer prodigy Braden Malcolm has his eye on the prize of one day playing professional soccer.
Recently that dream recently took a giant step closer to reality for the 14-year-old KVR Middle School grad.
Next month he will be moving to Vancouver at the invite of the MLS Whitecaps to take part in the team’s Academy Program.
Formerly called the Residency Program, the full-time, fully-funded curriculum is described as one like no other in North America.
The Academy is designed to maximize a player’s potential on and off the field through a “soccer lifestyle” philosophy linking technical and personal development, it states the team’s website.
The process integrates training, education and accommodation (billet families) near the National Soccer Development Centre (NSDC) training facility at the UBC campus.
The goal is to provide the perfect conditions to develop and prepare elite athletes for the mental and physical demands of professional environments in North America and Europe.
Malcolm, a centre back who spent the last two seasons with the Thompson Okanagan Football Club (TOFC) Interior division team in the BC Soccer Premier League will be attending University Hill Secondary School which is on the UBC campus near the centre.
Malcolm has been on the Whitecaps radar for some time now and in May got the call he’s been waiting for.
But the process has been a long, arduous one.
In addition to his play with the TOFC team he has attended a number of camps, practices and games in the Lower Mainland.
Soft spoken and described as a kind kid off the field, one of Malcolm’s teammates called him “beast” when he’s in dialled in on game mode.
Soccer has been a passion of his ever since he hauled off and kicked his first soccer ball at the age of five.
“What I like most about soccer (is) I can express myself on the field,” said Malcolm. “Every time I play I just have a smile on my face. It’s just a way to forget about things if I’ve had a bad day at school I can just come to the field and have a smile on my face.”
The journey so far has been a tough one for the young man, involving a lot of time and a huge amount of effort.
But it’s also been incredibly rewarding.
“It opened my eyes to what I can go to if I continue to work as hard as I have,” he said. “I work a lot especially coming from Penticton going down to Vancouver. I haven’t been scouted as much as say kids from Surrey, so it’s been a lot harder to do that but I’ve done it now. I just work every day and when you’re on the field you have to be someone who gets noticed.
“You have to bring something special because everyone is high level, coaches have to see you and then, like almost have to be scared to play you.”
As well, attitude off the field is every bit as important to those watching as are the soccer skills.
Malcolm admits moving away from Penticton will be tough.
“But the more I think about it, the more I think it’s going to be an amazing experience down there,” he said. “I’m going to be giving up a lot moving. I’m not going to be able to see my parents as much and the friends I’ve made here, but I get to play at the highest level in Canada. It’s insane, it’s really cool.”
The next stop on his life’s journey will be to make the first division team and then, one day, living the dream of becoming a professional soccer player.