Papers were signed and hands were shook as the South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association and Excelsior Rotterdam FC formed a partnership.
“I was super excited this morning. We signed a letter of understanding with each other’s clubs where we can exchange players, coaches and resources,” said SOYSA executive director/head coach Ezra Cremers. “The future is very bright for our club, but also our region.”
After visiting Excelsior Rotterdam FC in Holland during the summer, the club invited general manager Ferry de Haan and Marco van Lochem, head of youth sports, to visit their facilities over the past week. On Monday for six hours, van Lochem worked with the different age group players SOYSA has in its Excelsior program. Only their best players are picked for Excelsior. One of those players is Luke Gray, 11, who followed through on drills and listened to the instruction of van Lochem.
“It was a good experience,” said Gray, whose favourite player is Robin van Persie. “I liked all the new drills we got to do. I think he’s a good coach. He gets us to keep doing things until we get it right.”
Among the skills that Gray learned was how to turn while touching the ball, and when and where he should pass it.
“It was better when he demonstrated it,” said Gray.
Van Lochem enjoyed working with the kids and noticed the difference in them compared to his back home.
“In Holland we are always asking the kids: What do you see? What do you think? How can we do it better? How can we improve it?” said van Lochem. “Here they do it. In Holland, sometimes the kids think too much.”
He said their players in Holland are still better.
“If they train for two weeks in Holland, I think it’s three months training here in Canada,” he said, adding that SOYSA players are still a little bit far away. However, if they stay on the path they are on now, the gap will close.
When it comes to coaching the players, van Lochem said the most important thing is reading the game. Van Lochem put the kids through a drill in which they passed the ball then fired a shot on goal. After, the players scrimmaged and van Lochem watched closely. When needed, he would stop play to explain situations. Since returning to Penticton from his first trip nine months ago, van Lochem sees improvement.
“It’s great to see,” he said. “Lets see if the boys can play four times a week, do it for five or six years then I think Penticton is a factory for Canadian soccer.”
Van Lochem said it’s important for the kids to play more and they need better facilities.
“They still have very good facilities already,” he said. “They need (more) artificial grass to play the whole season.”
De Haan said he feels both clubs can benefit from their new partnership by learning from each other.
“The knowledge of the coaches should be at a higher level so they can bring it to the kids so the level of the kids picks up,” he said. “I have heard from Marco what Ezra and his guys are doing here. I take a look for myself. The way they train and try to improve the skills of the boys and the girls, it’s very interesting for us.”
“The biggest point was to show our facilities,” said Cremers, who was pleased with how the trip went. “Our program, our players, our coaches. Am I proud of the players and what they accomplished today? Yes, but he also exposes what needs to be worked on. When he comes back, we can show him we’re improving every step of the way.”
While van Lochem has been to the area before, it was a first for de Haan. He was very impressed by what he saw.
“Beautiful country,” said de Haan, who returned to Holland with van Lochem on Wednesday. “They took us to places I only dreamed about when I saw on television. For me, Canada is a country that has everything in one hand. It’s brilliant.”